IMTP VS8 Episode 30:

Devil's Advocate

By Vickie Moseley and Susan Proto
Art by
Theresa Filardo

Title: Devil's Advocate
Authors: Vickie Moseley (vmoseley@fgi.net) & Susan Proto
(STPteach@aol.com)
Completed: January 2001
Category: X-file, MSR, MT
Spoilers: None
Summary: Mulder willingly joins an investigation that may
be his  undoing.
Archive: IMTP for the first two weeks, then MTA, the
Garden, the Pyramid, Ephemeral, Gossamer, and any other
site that has received prior written permission.  All
others, please contact the authors.
Disclaimer: Mulder & Scully as well as all other
recognizable character  references belong to Chris Carter,
Ten Thirteen Productions, and Twentieth Century Fox 
Television. They are used here without permission. No 
copyright infringement is intended. Unrecognized characters 
belong to the  authors.
Author's Notes: This was written for I Made This!
Productions as one of the episodes of Virtual Season 8.  
IMTP can be found at http://www.i- made-this.com. Thanks to 
our Beta-Reader, Brandon Ray, for his infinite patience and  
wonderful cyberEye for detail. 
Feedback: YES!


Devil's Advocate
By Vickie Moseley (vmoseley@fgi.net)
& Susan Proto (STPteach@aol.com)

Prologue  

Friday, April 6th, 2001
Monsey, New York
11 a.m.

The heavy wood door opened and a small, slightly built man
entered the sanctuary of the old temple.  He moved about
the pews and quickly checked for dust and smiled with
satisfaction to find none.  

Next, he walked through a small archway and entered the
old, but functional kitchen.  He removed his formal, black
hat and placed it on the counter.  The man's long black
coat brushed against the old stove as he opened the door. 
He peered in and wondered if that was a piece of bread, of
chomaytz, that still lurked in the dark recesses of the
oven. He reached in to pick it up, but his fingers swiped
at only air and the hard, cold metal of the appliance.

"It's clean, Rebbe," called out the young man who stood
quietly during the older man's inspection. "You told me to
make it spotless.  I've been working here since 6 o'clock
and I did as you said.  Really, there is not one piece of
non-kosher for Passover food crumb in this entire
synagogue."

"It doesn't hurt to check, Reuven," he responded in a
surprisingly strong, deep voice.  Though he rose to his
full height, the younger man continued to tower over him. 
The rebbe unconsciously stroked his long untrimmed beard. 
His plain, black skullcap perched precariously on top of
his head while his long curly earlocks threatened to thread
their way in front of his lobes.

His physical appearance belied his vigorous energy; an
energy that was not normally expected of a man in his late
eighties. Reb Shmuel Zimmerman, however, was no ordinary
octogenarian.  His small, orthodox congregation counted on
him to make sure their shul was free of any chomaytz, so
they would be able to celebrate the first Seder night of
Pesach tomorrow night without worry.  

"Reuven, it looks as though you have done a fine job in
cleansing and preparing our shul for Pesach.  Now we'll be
able to enjoy the Sabbath tonight without worrying about
preparing for tomorrow.  You may go and help do the same at
home," informed the rebbe.

"You're going home now too, aren't you Rebbe Shmuel?"
asked the young man.  "You should get some rest for
tonight's service.  You work hard, too."

"Yes, yes, of course I will.  I'll be leaving shortly.  I
just need to do a couple of more things here in preparation
for tonight's service."

"The shul is fine, Rebbe.  You can go home too," assured
the young congregant.  At seeing the wizened old man nod
his head, Reuven smiled and bid him good morning.  "I'll
see you tonight at services, Reb Shmuel."

The old man nodded and heard the heavy door of the temple
close behind the young member.  Reuven Steiger was a good
person, he thought to himself, and someday he will be a
leader in our community.  But for now, he worries too much!
Reb Zimmerman thought with a smile.  

He moved about the old shul in a slow deliberate manner. 
This was his sanctuary, his home.  He found his peace here
and did whatever was necessary to make sure that his
congregation could find their peace here as well.

He finally ended up in the small room at the end of the
hallway, his office.  He sat down at his desk and opened
the small book that would help him with the finishing
touches on tonight's sermon.  It had to be a particularly
good one tonight, as it would be one to not only welcome in
the Sabbath Queen, but it would be to inspire the coming of
the eight-day observance of Passover.  

He turned the dog-eared pages of the old text.  He'd used
it as his inspiration for many sermons past and prayed it
would continue to give him guidance for future sermons as
well.

As his gnarled fingers pointed to the words with great
care, the rebbe felt a sudden draft.  He supposed it was
young Reuven returning to retrieve a forgotten hat or book.
The old spiritual leader continued to read and make sense
of the Hebrew text, while a second presence entered the
room.

"Reuven?  What did you forget?" he asked without looking
up from his book.  Seconds passed when Shmuel Zimmerman
realized he'd yet to receive an answer from his young
charge.  It wasn't like Reuven to be rude, thought the
rebbe.  Finally, out of curiosity, Reb Zimmerman raised his
eyes.

And when he did, the beam of light aimed straight and
true, and bore a hole directly through the book that the
old man had clutched to his heart.


St. Gertrude's Church 
Chicago, Illinois 
Saturday, April 14, 2001 
9 a.m.

The church was dappled with colored light from the sun
streaming in through the stained glass windows.  Dust motes
danced freely in the beams of red, blue and gold and gilded
the pews with a heavenly fire.

Father Mick Nelson grasped the aging wooden folding ladder
in both hands and carried it over to the far alcove of the
church.  Only one statue remained to be uncovered and the
long season of Lent would be over, at least as far as the
outward appearances went.  Tonight, a hundred candles would
light the altar as the holy water for the next year would
be blessed and the newly converted would receive the
sacraments after a year of study and prayer.

Mick remembered a time when he was new to the priesthood,
back when at least a dozen or so women would be cleaning
the floors, dusting the pews and uncovering the statues. 
Back when Holy Saturday was the official 'work day' of any
parish.  But times change, and most young women were now
working mothers, with Easter eggs left to dye and the
perfect gloves and hat to match the perfect Easter dress
left to find at the mall.  

The Rosary Society now consisted of women not much younger
than Mick himself, a spry 70 years old.  He chuckled
slightly, secure in the knowledge that he was still capable
of preparing the church, even if the ladies of the parish
were elsewhere occupied, or too frail to take up the task. 
If he had time, he'd run Mrs. Mulligan's feather duster
over the tops of the statues, but it usually seemed that
not much dust accumulated in the wake of the just three
year old heat pump/air conditioner that the parish council
had installed in the church.  Still, it was the principle
of the thing -- everything should be new and sparkling clean
for Easter.

He heaved the ladder more firmly in his hands.  Dratted
thing was getting heavier.  The old wood must be turning to
stone.  He was certain the ladder had been there even
before the church was erected.  It had probably somehow
escaped the great fire that burnt the city almost to the
ground in the late 19th century.   Mick would never admit
it was his own body growing weaker, and not the ladder
growing heavier.  Finally, both ancient artifacts made it
to their destination and he set the ladder at the foot of
the last statue.

The rickety old ladder groaned under his weight as he
reached over the edge to grasp the purple velvet covering
the statue.  Michael the Archangel.  Of course, as an image
of his patron saint, Mick had immediately taken a liking to
the marble edifice the first time he'd stepped foot in St.
Gertrude's, almost 20 years ago.  It was a fiery Michael,
one to strike terror in the hearts of anyone thinking they
might have an equal footing with God.  The sword in his
right hand was held high, too high to cover completely with
the purple cloth.  Only the rest of the body was covered,
leaving the penitent the impression that even during the
long 40 days of Lent, Michael was still ready to defend the
gates of heaven against all would-be invaders.  

Mick smiled as he thought of how he'd missed those intense
eyes, carved into the marble in such a way that they
followed him as he made his way up the aisle of the church
on Sunday mornings.  He always felt Michael to be something
of a protector to himself, personally.  He'd always been
proud of the fact that he was named after the guardian of
the Kingdom of Heaven.

The velvet was slippery, and from his precarious perch on
the old ladder, Mick shifted his weight, so as not to
topple either the ladder or the statue.  One hundred-year-
old marble statues imported from quarries just miles from
the Vatican were not that easy to come by, especially when
the roof of the church needed new shingles.  He was
concentrating so hard at his task that he didn't see the
cloud that apparently covered the sun, for the just
recently brightly lit church was suddenly plunged into
darkness.  Rain on Easter weekend?  His mother's voice
echoed in his ears, foretelling of rain for seven Sundays
after if a drop fell on Easter morning.

It was his mother's voice in his head that was the last
sound the old priest heard.  Behind him was a flash of
light so intense that it blazed a shadow on the plaster
wall behind the statue, melted the lead glaze that held the
stained glass of the window and singed the wooden sill.  A
flash of light so bright that it burned right through the 
body of a 70-year-old priest, cauterizing the wound even 
as it vaporized his still-beating heart.  

A look of surprise on his face, the corpse fell to the
ground, still clutching the purple velvet that had been
draped over his marble protector.  The velvet caught for a
moment on the statue's shield, causing it to drift down and
gently cover the deceased in a purple shroud.

A form stepped out of the shadow, a man about 6 feet tall
with coal black hair and eyes that seemed to glow red.  He
calmly walked over to the body hidden under the purple
velvet.  With a smile of triumph on his face, he leaned
over and tenderly tucked the cloth around the body, then
turned and left by the front door of the church.

The statue of Michael stared on, frozen in horror at the
murder he'd just witnessed.


ACT I

Office of the Assistant Director Walter Skinner 
Friday, September 21, 2001 
10:45 a.m.

Walter Skinner looked up from the folder on his desk and
waved the two agents toward the waiting chairs.  "This
won't take long, Agents."

Mulder stepped aside to let his partner take her 'favorite
chair' just to the right of his.  He'd often wondered if
he'd been a Freudian what he might make of her almost
obsessive need to be to his right.  As it was, he'd gotten
too used to their normal positions in this office to care.

"It's good to see you back in the office, sir," Scully
said, "How are you feeling?"  

Skinner looked up and said, "I'm beginning to feel more
like myself," and gave just a hint of a smile.  

Mulder chuckled outright, however, and said, "Welcome
back, sir." 

Skinner smiled more broadly in acknowledgment of Mulder's
recognition of his small joke about their last X-file. 
Just as quickly, however, he returned to his AD persona.
 

"I just received this from Violent Crimes," Skinner said,
extending a file folder across his desk toward Scully. 
"It's a potential serial murder case.  Different cities,
same mode of death.  The most recent murder occurred just
two days ago, a Lutheran minister was found dead at the
site of a prayer service that was to open the beginning of
classes at the parochial high school he headed up.

"The medical examiner in Chicago states that the priest
was killed by use of a laser," Scully said, reading
directly from the file.  "Sir, the first two victims died
of the same cause, within a week of each other." She handed
the file over to Mulder.  "Nobody thought to connect them
until just recently?"

Skinner shrugged.  "The first murder in New York State
wasn't reported immediately.  It occurred in an Orthodox
Jewish Temple and wasn't reported until the most recent
murder of the student made the press."

"One priest, one Hassidic rabbi, and one Lutheran
minister," Scully noted.  "All members of the clergy," she
mused more to herself than to the two men sitting with her.

"Are they filing charges for obstruction of justice?  They
didn't report the first murder for five months, why not?"
Mulder asked, flipping through the pages.

"No charges that I'm aware of, Agent Mulder.  The death
was immediately reported to the Rockland County Sheriff's
Department, and the medical examiner was called in as well.
He apparently signed off on a visual examination, but no
investigation was made because the M.E. concluded at the
site
that the death was not a result of foul play."  Skinner
paused momentarily before continuing.  Hesitantly, he
continued, "It appears that there was some feeling that the
death was not... of an earthly cause."  Skinner craned
his neck, obviously uncomfortable with the reasons for the
lack of a report.

"The statement of the person who found the first murder
victim says he believed it was supernatural causes," Mulder
corrected, reading from the statement.  "Evil causes," he
added with a lifted eyebrow.  

"In any event, there have been three murders in just over
five months and the VCS has asked for the case to be
referred to the X-Files Division," Skinner said, looking
directly at Mulder.

"They've had it less than a week.  Seems like they might
at least 'try' to find a reasonable explanation," Scully
said with a deep sigh.

"Nah, Scully.  Not when they've got 'The Spooky Patrol' to
take all the really difficult cases off their hands,"
Mulder answered with a smirk. "I know those jokers in
Violent Crimes.  Work to them is a four letter word."

"I think you know what to do on this case, Agents,"
Skinner interjected impatiently.  "If you don't mind, I
have my own work to do.  I'll be expecting a report when
you've got something to go on."

The two agents stood in tandem and Scully followed Mulder
out of the assistant director's office.  He was reading the
file folder all the way to the elevator, and Scully had a
hard time keeping the grin off her face as he deftly
sidestepped oncoming traffic.  She knew a great deal of his
talent at this game was his peripheral vision, honed to a
razor's edge after years spent on many basketball courts,
but to the layman, or other agents, it just gave more fuel
to her partner's now titanic reputation.

"What's so funny, Scully?" he asked, jolting her from her
thoughts.  She must not have been too successful keeping
that smile off her face.  She made a note to start
practicing that art again in front of the mirror at home.

"Nothing, Mulder.  So, what else does the file say?" she
asked, changing the subject in the direction she knew he
would want it to go.

"The third victim was a Lutheran minister who teaches at a
small private high school in Missouri, about forty miles
southeast of St. Louis," Mulder resumed reading.  "He was
setting up for an outdoor prayer service before the
beginning of classes and was found with the same burn hole
through his chest.  Well, at least this guy doesn't seem to
hold too many prejudices.  Next, he'll probably go after a
Buddhist Monk."  

They had arrived back at the basement office and Mulder
took a few seconds to shed his jacket, drape it over the
back of his chair, and sit back with his feet on the desk. 
He tossed the file back to his partner.

"All members of the clergy, as I was saying upstairs,"
Scully mused thoughtfully as she flipped through the pages
again.  "Gee, Mulder. Maybe the devil's doing it," she
teased.  But something about one of the crime scene photos,
the picture of the last victim, the Lutheran minister,
caught her eye.  The man's face was clearly shown in the
glossy black and white photograph and the look in his eyes
caused Scully to blink and look closer.  

A chill ran down her spine.  This person had seen
something.  Something that could only be described as pure
evil.  She'd seen pure evil before, and she didn't know if
she was ready to go after it again.

" ...surgical laser.  So basically, the guys over at
VCS just didn't look very far.  I think this one's pretty
easy, Scully."

She looked up, startled, when she realized she'd just
missed half a conversation.  "I don't know, Mulder.  Three
different cities, three victims, and how many people can
just stick a surgical laser under their overcoat and then
use it to kill a person.  Those things are pretty bulky!"

Mulder's feet hit the floor as he stood to come over next
to where she was standing.  She was feeling unnerved by the
photo and her partner's nearness unnerved her even more. 
She held back a flinch when he took the file back and
started pacing.

"Scully, medical technology is moving forward at the speed
of light. Why, just the other day I was reading an article
where surgical lasers are becoming smaller and smaller.  I
think it's not impossible to find one that could be used. 
And remember, all these men were killed in seclusion. 
There was no one else in the temple, the church, the school
grounds.  And before you say it, we both know there is
always a back door that can be jimmied open."

"But Mulder, there is no mention of a jimmied door.  Most
churches these days have security systems unless there are
several people around," Scully countered, moving over to
perch on the edge of the desk, just to stay out of the path
of his pacing.  "And where did you read this article about
surgical lasers?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.

He smiled sheepishly.  "Ah, did I tell you your Journal of
the American College of Surgeons came in the other day?  I
think it's somewhere on my desk."  He moved over to a pile
of papers nearly a foot and a half high and started digging
through it.

She shook her head and stilled his hand.  "Forget it,
Mulder, I'll buy a new one.  It's simpler.  But that still
doesn't explain . . ."

"Scully.  If we take all the grunt cases from VCS, we
won't have time for our cases," Mulder said firmly, taking
the file folder and tossing it on the only open space on
his desk.  "I think it's time we stopped being the
'whipping boys'.  I'm going to give this one back to them."

Scully chewed her lip for a minute.  In the pit of her
stomach, that was exactly what she wanted.  The photo of
the minister's eyes was still haunting her.  But another
part of her, the curious part that was only happy when they
were on a chase, didn't want to let this one go that
easily.  Besides, she couldn't believe her partner was
willing to toss it aside, either, even though that's
exactly what he was proposing.

"You don't want it because they're religious," she accused
suddenly, realization brightening her eyes.

Mulder gave her a blank stare and then shook his head in
disgust. "Scully, do you really want to start this? 
Because I'm beginning to hate this game."

"What game?" she shot back.

"The 'you're a good Catholic and I'm a dirty atheist'
game.  I really hate it.  Look, just because I don't go to
church every Sunday and you do doesn't mean I hate
religion."

"Mulder, you have told me, flat out, that you don't like
organized religion," she replied evenly.  "And I've never
called you a 'dirty atheist,'" she added, her voice
betraying the pain of that accusation.

He stood there for a full minute, looking like he was
going to try and prove her wrong.  Then he dropped his head
to his chest.  "Look, I admit there is some drawing power
to this case.  The whole concept that someone might be
delusional to the point of feeling they are acting as
'God's Avenging Angel.'  The Good vs. Evil, and I would be
willing to bet that in each and every case, the killer
feels that the victim is somehow the evil one.  I love that
kind of shit, Scully, I eat it up with a spoon and you know
it.  But is it really an X-File?"

He had her stymied.  She couldn't pinpoint exactly when he
had taken control of the argument and brought it back to
the only point that mattered, but he'd done it.  Damn him,
she always liked to do that.  But grudgingly, she had to
agree.  As interesting as the case might be, if the answer
could be found in the most recent JACS, there probably
wasn't much there for the X-Files Division.  Fighting it
every step of the way, a small smile grew on her face.

"You're right, Mulder.  This very likely is not an X-File.
And for the record, you owe me this month's issue of the
Journal."

"So, I give this back to the bad boys at VCS?" he asked,
not hiding his own grin in the least.  "We have real
mutants to catch, Scully."

"Speaking of which, I have a date at Quantico.  They're
backed up and called for reinforcements.  I'll be gone the
rest of the afternoon."

"We still on for tonight?" he asked hopefully.  She
couldn't decide whether she wanted to kiss the little boy
look on his face, or scrub it off with a scrub brush.  She
did neither.

"We are, but remember, my turn for the movie.  I fully
intend to get something I want to see," she warned, picking
up her coat and briefcase as she headed for the door.

"I'll make sure the pizza gets there on time this time,
Scully.  See you later."


Mulder's Apartment 
6:55 p.m.

The doorbell rang and Mulder rose off the couch to
retrieve his wallet to pay for the pizza that awaited them
on the other side of the door. He went into his bedroom and
returned with a ten, a five, and a few singles.

That was Scully's influence no doubt.  There was a time
when he would have handed over $15 to cover the cost and
tip for a $13.99 large, extra cheese pizza.  The first time
Scully saw him do that, however, she'd gasped and
immediately ran to pick up her purse to add a few singles
to the payment.  The delivery boy looked at her with an
expression something akin to love at first sight, and then
muttered, "Wow, I hope he keeps you around," and then in a
clearer voice, he expressed his thanks.

So now, Mulder had learned his lesson and automatically
produced the appropriate number of singles to cover a tip
that Scully was no longer embarrassed by.  The amazing
thing was, it had become second nature to Mulder.  

Guess you could teach an old dog new tricks.

"Grab some beers, will ya Scully?" called out Mulder as he
carried over the hot pie to the coffee table.  

"Sure," she replied and made her way into the kitchen. 
She grabbed a couple of bottles that were chilling in the
refrigerator and returned to the couch where Mulder had put
down a couple of paper plates.  

"You know, that case from this morning has some
interesting aspects to it, Scully."

"No."

"No?" he echoed.

"No talk of cases tonight, Mulder.  I want this to be a
nice, relaxing time together.  Please."

"Relaxing, eh?" he said with his patented leer.

"Yeah, big boy," she retorted, "relaxing."

"Oh, Scully, if it weren't for the fact that I was
starving at the moment, I'd be happy to help you relax," he
said as he picked up a slice of the steaming, gooey pizza.

"Gee, Mulder, it's not often I can say you're thinking
with your stomach instead of your--" she began.

"--Damn! It's hot!" he exclaimed as he tried to pick up
the first slice.  

"Well, we'd just complain if it arrived cold, right?" she
asked with a wry smile. "Be patient, it'll cool off soon
enough, Mulder."

"Yeah, but I'm hungry now," he replied. The fact that his
stomach chose that very moment to growl loudly threw both
partners into a fit of laughter. "See?  The stomach don't
lie, Scully."

"No, I suppose not.  Let me try," she said as she deftly
removed the first slice with the help of a butter knife. 
"Here you go, Mulder. Feast!"

Scully took one for herself and then the two of them
settled back to enjoy a video Scully had rented.  

"Now, ya wanna tell me again why I want to see this film,
Scully?"

"It's called "House of Mirth," Mulder, and it's a very
poignant story that is universal in its attempt to tell of
how greed can be the downfall of all who crave money
without earning it," she explained.

"Um, right, but Scully, Caddyshack does the same thing and
we would have had some laughs while watching it, too."

"Mulder, c'mon! You chose the movie last week. You didn't
hear me crabbing when we watched Road Trip for the
seventeenth time, did you?"

"Okay, okay, I'll be good, but Scully, they're wearing
hats and gloves and stuff," he pouted.

"Mulder..." she uttered with a warning tone.

Mulder closed his mouth around a bite of pizza.

"HOT!" he cried out immediately, although the utterance
wasn't quite that clear.  He dropped the pizza back into
the plate as he reached for his beer to take a cooling swig.

"You okay?" Scully asked with some concern.  

"Yeah, yeah," he muttered.  His tongue felt like it had
swelled to twice its size in a matter of moments.  "Damn,
'dat was hot!"

"Poor baby," Scully cooed.  "Want me to kiss and make all
better?"

"Oh, 'Cully, 'dat's the ni'tet t'ing you could ever 'tay
to me."

Scully, of course, burst out laughing.

Scully managed to scarf down two of the large slices and
two beers, while Mulder polished off three beers, three
slices, and was eyeing a fourth.

"You do realize you're going to explode if you do," Scully
said as she watched her partner wage an internal war with
himself.

"Yeah, I guess you're right.  Besides, if I eat it now,
what'll I have for breakfast?"

"Oh, you're such a gourmet, Mulder!" replied Scully with a
giggle.

"Yeah, that's me.  Hey, c'mere," he said softly.

"What?"

"You've got some cheese on your sweater," he said as he
pointed to her collar.  

Just as it appeared that Mulder was going to reach over
with his fingers to pluck the piece of cheese up, Mulder
leaned in quickly and devoured his partner's neck while
also managing to scoop up the cheese with his tongue.

She squealed in utter surprise and in utter delight.

"You taste good, Scully.  A whole lot better than pizza,"
he said through alternating kisses and licks of the skin
exposed just above her collar.

"How good is that?" she asked in a breathy tone and
wondered if she'd be able to maintain any kind of composure.

Wondered why she would want to.

"Oh, good, Scully.  Really, really good."  And with that
he stood up and scooped her up in his arms.  "But I think
there are other parts of your anatomy that I want to taste
even more."

"Only if I can join in this little dessert, too, Mulder."

"Sure, Scully, I learned to play nice in the sandbox with
my playmates," he responded.

And so did she.

He nibbled at her neck, just under her chin and then
slowly worked his way down to the hollow area of her neck
just where her cross lay. Scully lifted her chin up a bit
to allow Mulder better access and sighed in delight when he
continued his explorations.

And groaned when he stopped.

Why did he stop?

"Mulder?"

"Shh, listen," he said in a whisper.  

"Listen to what?  I don't hear anything," she pouted as
she reached around his head in an effort to prod him back
to her chin, and her neck, and her chest, and her...

"That's just it, Scully.  I don't hear anything," he
agreed with a tone of wonder.  "No phone ringing, no
doorbell buzzing, no gunshots through the window..."

"Mulder!" she cried out slapping his arm in quick
reaction while he laughed aloud.

"Think about it, Scully.  This has got to be a sign.  It's
got to be some kind of omen."

"Mulder, shut up and get back here, now!" she growled with
a hint of a smile.

"Simmer down Agent Scully," he said with a chuckle, "no
need to pull out the weapon yet."

"Oh, no?" she said with a lecherous grin, as she snaked
her hand down the front of her partner's pants.  "It seems
to me the weapon is very much in need of being pulled out."

Mulder managed a low, very needy, groan before he was able
to replace his lips on just the parts Scully desired.

And then some.  


Mulder's Apartment 
Saturday, September 22, 2001 
5:45 a.m.

It was barely dawn when he reached over and lightly
touched her bare leg.  He reveled in how good it felt to be
able to reach over and touch her at will. Her skin was so
soft, so smooth... Well, usually.

Mulder smiled when he realized how mortified Scully would
feel if she knew that he was playing with the light hair on
her legs.  Maybe he'd offer to help her shave them, or wax
them, or whatever women did to make their legs feel silky
smooth.  All he knew was right now Scully felt wonderful to
him, and he was perfectly content to have her in his arms,
hairy legs and all.

Slowly his fingers wandered towards her navel, and he made
small, loving circles around it before he found himself
moving up toward his favorite part of his partner's
anatomy.  He listened to Scully sigh contentedly.  

She always knew Mulder was a breast man.

Slowly, Scully placed feathery touches on his knees and
thighs, which remained wrapped comfortably around her legs
like a Christmas present's ribbon.

As his fingers reached more urgently for her, she answered
with her own fingers in kind.  Mulder felt his urgency
build slowly at first, but the anticipation grew and the
excitement caused both of their bodies to respond
without inhibitions.  Their mutual desire to satisfy one
another was their first priority, and as a result, their
breathing soon came in pants and quiet cries of blessed
release.

Scully reached around to draw him into a soft, but very
passionate kiss. He loved her back as he knew she loved him.

"Go back to sleep," he quietly urged. "It's still so early."

"Mmmm," she murmured and prepared to snuggle into him more
comfortably.

"Just a minute, Dana," he whispered, as he unraveled from
her.

"Mulder?" she asked with her eyes still closed.

"Go back to sleep."  He slowly got out of bed and went
into the bathroom.  By the time he'd finished with his
shower and dressed, she'd fallen back into a fairly deep
sleep.

He bent down and placed a light kiss on her lips.

"Sleep now?" she asked.

"I have to go out for a little bit.  We'll talk later. You
sleep."  He reached over and kissed her again.  He walked
out of the bedroom into the kitchen to set up the coffeepot
for her.  After he set the timer, he jotted a quick note
and leaned it against her mug.

He lightly danced his fingers over the note one last time
and then he left, locking the door behind him.


Mulder's Apartment 
8:45 am

"Mulder?" she called out as she stretched catlike amid the
rumpled sheets.  She crawled out of bed and wondered how
long he'd been up.  She realized it was quite possible he
was out jogging, though after this morning's extension of
last night's wondrous activities, she wasn't certain how he
had the strength.

She knew she sure didn't.

She went into the bathroom and took care of her morning
business, and made sure to run her toothbrush across her
teeth.  She didn't even remember which of the dozen times
she'd been over when he'd been injured that she'd left it
there.  The only thing worse than kissing Mulder with
morning breath was trying to drink coffee with unbrushed
teeth.

She went into the kitchen, led by the aroma of the coffee
that had brewed only a short time before.

"Mulder, if ever there was a reason I loved you, this has
to be it," she murmured aloud as she picked the pot up. 
She noticed the note by her mug and picked it up as she
poured.  Next, Scully carried both the steaming cup of
coffee and the note into the living room and sat down on
the couch.  She pushed aside the box of leftover pizza over
to place her mug down.

Scully unfolded the note and managed to decipher Mulder's
small, scrawling handwriting.  

"SHIT!" 

She read the short note again.

"SHIT, SHIT, SHIT!" she cried out.  "Damn it, Mulder, what
the hell do you think you're doing?  And why the hell
didn't you tell me?"

She threw the note down onto the coffee table, while at
the same time opened up the pizza box and picked up a cold
slice to munch on.  A little comfort food was called for,
as Scully needed to fortify herself before she called
Quantico to ask Mulder why the hell he got himself assigned
to that damned case.


Mulder's Apartment 
4:35 p.m.

Scully was still fuming as she unlocked the door to
Mulder's apartment. She didn't bother to knock.  She only
hoped he would be standing close enough that the door would
slam into him when she burst in.  That would serve him
right, the bastard!

She hadn't spent the entire day looking for him.  No, she
vowed as she munched cold pizza, deliberately leaving
greasy fingerprints all over his leather couch, only to
wipe them clean after taking her shower, that she was not
going to run after him like some crazed fish wife.  But as
she went to the cleaners and picked up her clothes, went to
the market and stocked her rapidly depleting supply of
feminine products and nonperishable grocery items, went to
the computer store to see if her new power cord had
arrived, she couldn't shake the feelings that were invading
her thoughts.  

Sure, this was not technically a ditch.  Even she had to
admit that.  He had told her exactly where he was going. 
He had even stayed in the same time zone.  She knew his
approximate location all through the day, and for once, she
was relatively certain that he was safe from physical harm.

But that was the rub.  He might have been safe from
physical harm, but that wasn't the only harm Fox William
Mulder was known to encounter and Scully knew that
painfully well.  He wasn't taking this case as an X-File. 
Which meant he wasn't expecting a nice, paranormal reason
behind these murders.  In turn, that meant he knew, as only
he could know, there was a person behind these deaths. 
Someone truly vile and depraved, someone hard to catch,
making the journey to follow him that much more difficult. 
This was a John Mostow, a John Roche, a Luther Boggs, a
Lucas Henry, dare she even think it to herself, this was a
Bill Patterson.

Sometime around 3, she was sitting at a stoplight when
a memory hit her so hard and so real she had to pull off
the road.  It was an image of her partner, her lover,
finally, and he was lying in a hospital bed in the
psychiatric ward, hands and feet bound to the bed rails.
"Scully, you can't tell me that after all these years, you
didn't see this coming."  Sure, at the time it was a jest,
but more so an accusation.  

Yes, she had stood by and said very little each time he
plunged himself into the 'abyss of darkness' as he waxed
poetic in their field report. But each time, she noticed
with horror that it was getting harder and harder for
Mulder to find his way back out of the darkness.  His
greatest fear, besides losing her, was losing himself to
that darkness, becoming another Patterson, the negative of
the man he aspired to be. And here he was, running headlong
into a situation that could very possibly fulfill that self-
made prophesy.

The door squealed open and hit the wall with the force of
her entrance. The bang resounded loudly, but it was met by
silence.  Only the fish tank created any white noise.  Then
she heard a dresser drawer open and she headed resolutely
for the bedroom.

He looked up expectantly when she entered.  "Scully, where
ya been?  I tried your apartment but the machine picked up."

"What are you doing?" she demanded, hands on her hips. 
For a moment it occurred to her he might mistake her
question.  She meant both in general, with this case, and
specifically, as he was taking clothes out of his dresser
and putting them in his suitcase.

"There was another murder, just today in Biloxi,
Mississippi.  The task force is meeting first thing
tomorrow morning.  Tom booked me on a flight tonight, I've
got to be out at Dulles in half an hour."  He glanced at
his watch.  "Shit, make that 25 minutes.  Hey, this
morning, did you see my razor in the bathroom?"

She blinked at him.  He had no idea how angry she was at
that moment and apparently it wouldn't really matter if he
did.  She willed herself to calm down.  "Did you check on
the floor next to the sink?"

He grinned at her and gave her the thumbs up as he hurried
across the hall.  "Bingo!" he cried triumphantly.  "I
really need to get one with those shower holders, like you
have," he grinned again and stuffed the razor in his travel
bag.  "Good thing you're here.  I don't know if I need long
term or short-term parking.  Give me a ride to the airport?"

Realizing it was her only chance to talk to him, she took
it.  "Sure. But Mulder, I really want to talk for a minute."

"Twenty minutes on the Beltway, Scully.  That enough
time?"  He grabbed the suitcase and his briefcase and
headed into the hallway.

She was following behind him, a position she always hated.
Not so much because of its submissive role, but because she
was never sure if he was listening to her when she couldn't
see his face.  "Mulder, why didn't you tell me you'd gone
to VCS and offered your services?"

"I tried to tell you, Scully.  Last night," he tossed over
his shoulder as he locked the door.  "Remember, you
declared no shop talk."

She bit her lip to keep from screaming.  She had meant
general, run of the mill debate on the merits of a case,
not announcements of transfers, no matter how temporary. 
But, of course, Mulder wouldn't see the significant
difference there.

"Besides, I didn't call them.  After you left yesterday,
Tom Alexander called me."  Scully thought hard and finally
remembered, Tom Alexander, the new head of VCS.  At her
furrowed brow, he supplied more information.  "Tom and I
shared a room at the academy."

"He asked for your help," she said flatly.

"He reminded me that I owed him one.  And I did.  He
pulled my ass off a roof in Hogan's Alley that was about to
collapse.  I could have been laid up for weeks with
whatever broken bones I would have acquired.  He never
collected, so I agreed to give him a hand here."

"Mulder, you know how these cases affect you!" Scully
cried out in frustration as the elevator doors opened and
they entered the car.

"Scully.  Relax.  I'm one of the profilers.  I'm not even
the main one! Tom has a new kid, a little wet behind the
ears, but all the makings of a really good behavioral
scientist.  I'm just there to, well, as Tom put it, potty
train the kid."

"Like you were just there to help out Bill Patterson?" she
asked, her voice sounding like an accusation even to her
own ears.

Mulder took a long look at her.  She could see him trying
to figure out what the problem was, and failing miserably. 
"Is this about this morning, Scully?  Because I made
coffee.  I even left a note," he pointed out as the
elevator doors opened and he took off down the hall toward
the outer door of his building.

"No, Mulder, this has nothing to do with leaving me in bed
this morning," Scully said with a heartfelt sigh.  The man
was so dense at times, his brilliance was like finding
diamonds in a dark cave.  "This is about why you left VCS
to take over the X-Files.  This is about how wrapped up you
get in profiling.  This is about your sanity -- or, in this
case, your lack thereof!"

Mulder stopped so abruptly she had to sidestep him to keep
from plowing into his back.  He turned toward her and the
look on his face chilled her to the bone.  It was a look of
utter betrayal and she tried to remember every syllable
she'd just uttered that would have invoked such a response
from him.

"You think I'm crazy, Scully?" he asked in that deadly
calm voice she'd learned to both love and despise.  She
loved it when he directed it at anyone he was
interrogating.  She despised it when he directed it at her.

"You know better than that," she shot back, when she
recovered sufficiently from his glare.

"You think helping out on this case is going to drive me
over the brink?"  By this time they were standing outside
her car and she dug through her pocket for her keys.

"Mulder, I think every time you take a profiling case,
it's playing with fire.  Each time it's harder and harder
for you to find your way back. And don't stand there so
sanctimonious and try and tell me that's not true.  That is
what I'm afraid of.  I'm afraid for you!"


She watched him as he visibly tried to get his anger in
check.  He took several deep breaths.  Then he swallowed
and looked down at her, his eyes clear and just like the
sun coming out from behind the clouds, a small smile broke
out on his face.  "Eight years and I'm still getting used
to having you cover my back," he said tenderly.  He pulled
her over into his arms for just a moment, placing a kiss on
the top of her head. "I'll be good.  I'll be careful.  And
most of all, I won't get in too deep.  I promise."

"But I won't be with you," she countered and tried very
hard not to sound like the whiny fishwife image she'd been
fighting all day.  She unlocked his door to avoid looking
at him.

"Scully," Mulder sighed. "Somebody has to stay behind and
keep the home fires burning.  I really don't think this is
going to take that long. I'll watch the kid, give him some
pointers, and tell Tom our slate is clean.  With luck,
we'll catch this bastard quickly.  But either way, once the
kid is up to speed, I'm history."  He got into the car and
reached over to unlock her door.  She got behind the wheel
and buckled her belt before speaking again.

"You honestly believe that you will leave an open
investigation, with the perpetrator at large?" she asked,
keeping her eyes on the road as she pulled away from the
curb.

"You think I can't?" he shot back.

"I've never seen you do it, Mulder.  Not once.  Not once
in eight years. That's a pretty long track record."

"Yeah, but look at us.  Who would have thought last night
or anything like it would happen after eight long years,"
he countered with a devilish smile.  She wasn't buying and
he shook his head in exasperation.  "Scully, things can
change.  I want them to change.  I don't want to be known
as 'Spooky' for the rest of my life."

She stared at him, almost making him reach out to take the
wheel before she turned back to the road.

"OK, I probably will.  But I don't want to go crazy.  That
is not something I put on the list of things I want to do
before I retire."

"I don't like this, Mulder.  I want that on the record."

"Duly noted, Agent Scully."  He reached over and squeezed
her leg just above the knee.  "I'll call, really.  And if
you think I'm losing it, you have my permission to use my
credit card, buy a plane ticket, come to wherever I am and
kick my ass, now, how's that?"

"If that comes to pass, Mulder, you better be prepared. 
Because I'm flying first class," she muttered, but let the
subject drop for the rest of the drive to the airport.


Biloxi, Mississippi 
Sunday, September 23, 2001 
8 a.m.

Mulder should have felt more rested, having gone straight
to the motel room the previous night, but he didn't sleep. 
His mind was already on the case, and he was anxious to
finally meet with the team and see what they'd come up
with.  The kid managed to get a flight out that morning and
was already at the Biloxi Bureau Office when Mulder
arrived.  "Gotta stop thinking of him as that," muttered
Mulder to himself as he entered the hastily set up meeting
place.  Surprisingly, Tom Alexander was the first to greet
him.

"What the hell are you doing here, and who's running the
shop back at Quantico?" asked Mulder with a smile.

"I decided someone had to watch and make sure you
remembered how to profile, Mulder," Tom replied with a
hearty handshake.  "Good to see you again.  Sorry it
couldn't be under more pleasant circumstances."

"Yeah, but you know I'm happy to try and help you guys
out," replied the agent.

"I know, Mulder, and I do want you to know I appreciate
it.  I got a call from your AD; he was none too pleased
with me and made no bones about it," informed the VCS head.

"Yeah, well, Skinner is a bit of a mother hen when it
comes to his people," Mulder replied with a laugh.  "You
gotta forgive him, he's not used to people overruling his
directives."

"I wouldn't overrule your AD's directive," responded Tom
immediately, and then as sudden realization hit, he
practically moaned, "Damn it, Mulder, you didn't--" reacted
Tom.

"Yeah, 'fraid I did, but don't worry about it.  Skinner's
gotten used to it." 

"Remind me to send the man a nice bottle of wine, Okay?" 

"Tom, there is a definite reason you were promoted to head
of VCS," Mulder retorted, smiling.

"But, it's cost me half my salary to pay for the Grecian
Formula to cover all the gray hair guys like you give me,"
Tom replied in kind. "C'mon, let's go meet the team.  I
also want you to meet Kenny."

"Kenny?"

"Kenny Andrews, our up and coming profiler
extraordinaire," Tom reminded.

"Oh, the kid," Mulder muttered more to himself than aloud.  

Tom heard him anyway and simply laughed.  "Feeling your
age a bit, eh, Mulder?"

"Don't remind me, Alexander, okay?  C'mon, let's go put
'the kid' through his paces."

When Tom pointed out Kenny Andrews, Mulder wasn't sure if
he should be working with the guy or taking him to the
playground and push him on the swings.  He looked around
twelve years old.  Mulder couldn't help but wonder if he
_ever_ looked that young.

"Remind you of anyone, Mulder?" Tom asked interrupting his
thoughts.

"Should he?"

"Mulder, everyone had the same reaction to you when you
hit VCS."

"Reaction?" echoed Mulder.

"Oh c'mon, Mulder, is your memory that short?  Patterson
had been touting you as the VCS savior.  Now of course, I
knew you were just a mere mortal, having seen you in your
underwear and all, but these guys figured you were their
new superman and in you walk, looking about as old as their
teenage sons.  I thought the guys in the bull pen were
going to lose their lunch!" he said laughing at the memory. 

"You mean, much like I feel about now," Mulder retorted. 
"Jeeze, Tom, how old is the kid?"

"Old enough, Mulder, but for your information he's turning
25 in a few months."  

"Twenty-four?  The kid is 24 fucking years old?" Mulder 
repeated in amazement.

Tom paused momentarily and then said, softly but with a
seriousness he held in reserve, "Look, Fox, the kid's good.
Real good.  But there's one little problem."

"Problem?"

"Yeah," Tom answered, "a problem.  He reminds me of you."

Mulder knew Tom wasn't joking at this point.  "He gets in
deep?"

"Yeah.  He can get himself in real deep.  I need you to
show him the way out, Fox."

Mulder drew in a deep breath and then let it out in one
loud blow. "Sure, Tom.  Let's go teach the kid a thing or
two about how to be spooky and still keep your marbles."

"That's why I knew you were the man to call, Mulder," Tom
replied as he clapped his hand on Mulder's shoulder.  

Tom turned his face away from Mulder's and as he continued
to walk him over to where Kenny Andrews was sitting, Tom
could only wonder who was going to help Mulder keep his?

As they drove to the site, Mulder tried to keep calm.  He
knew the kid was nervous; he was meeting his idol or so
he'd said about a dozen times, so it wasn't surprising that
Andrews kept sputtering and tripping over his words.  Each
and every time he tried to offer a piece of data regarding
the latest information, he stuttered and found it
impossible to get it said without stopping and starting
countless times.

Mulder could only wonder how the hell this 'child' could
ever remind Tom Alexander of him.  If there was one thing
Spooky Mulder was, he was smooth in his delivery of the
facts to the point of being glib, which was one of the
reasons he'd developed a goodly number of enemies in the
VCS bullpen.  No one liked a wise ass, particularly a wise
ass who was almost always right and made everyone around
him look like an idiot.  

The only thing that saved Mulder was that as he got deeper
and deeper into a case, he'd become less and less talkative
as he got deeper and deeper into the profile.  Once that
happened, everyone knew there was no talking to ol' Spooky,
since he was no longer just himself.  He was more the UNSUB
than he was Spooky Mulder, and very few people had the
stomach to deal with him when he got to that point.

It was one of the reasons he knew he had to get out of
VCS.  He knew, since there was no one person who was
willing to cover his back a hundred per cent of the time
when he was profiling, he had to save himself.  Patterson
didn't like it, but Patterson didn't like anything that
went against his way of thinking.

Mulder was glad Tom Alexander was the new head of VCS.  He
was a good man.  He was the type of man who would look out
for his people in a way that Bill Patterson could never
look out for Mulder.  Kenny Andrews would be okay if he got
himself in too deep.  Though at the moment, Mulder couldn't
for the life of him figure out how Kenny Andrews ever
became a profiler.  He hadn't shut up the entire time they
were driving to the site, which was approximately a twenty-
minute ride.  Mulder was never so grateful to feel the car
stop so he could get out and escape the kid's incessant
talking.

As he stood up, Mulder took a look all around him to see
what the area looked like.  It was pretty much an open
field that had a large tent set up with several cars and
trucks parked to the rear right side of it. There were a
couple of local police cars parked in the location they'd
just parked.  Mulder assumed it was to keep curiosity
seekers beyond the taped off section of the murder site.  

The driver of the car, Agent James Sandborne was a native
of the area. He said hello to the two local law enforcement
officers and introduced Mulder and Andrews.

"So, Jimmy, you think you really need all the big guns in
here to solve this one?" asked Officer Jeremiah Thompson.

"Well, Jerry," Agent Sandborne began, "I tell ya. It was a
bit of a surprise when the reverend passed on, dontcha
think?"

"Could be it was just his time," offered Thompson's
partner, Officer Avery Millstone.

"That's true, Avery, that's true.  But we just want to
make sure that was the only reason he died and moved on to
his place in heaven, ya hear?" Agent Sandborne explained.

"Well, we hear ya, Jimmy.  Y'all let us know if there's
anything we can do for ya," Officer Thompson offered.

"Well, that's right kind of you, Jerry.  We sure do
appreciate that," Agent Sandborne said.  And with that the
three agents began moving toward the taped off site.

"Agent Andrews, I want you to know you just witnessed the
work of a master," stated Mulder emphatically.

"Excuse me?" asked Andrews.

"Andrews, Agent Sandborne is a master of diplomacy." 
Mulder took a quick glance at the older Sandborne and
observed him turn a couple shades of red.

"Thank you, Agent Mulder.  Thanks for noticing,"
acknowledged Sandborne.

"Right," muttered Andrews who was obviously still unsure
of what the hell Mulder was talking about.

"Agent Andrews, Agent Sandborne here just let the local PD
know that we are on their side, and we're not trying to
steal anyone's thunder or glory.  He's also let it be known
that we don't consider ourselves supermen and that we don't
necessarily have all of the answers and that we would be
happy to turn to them as the experts of the area for help
if we need it," Mulder pointed out.

"Oh."  Andrews stood silently for a moment, and then said,
"I guess it's important to establish some kind of rapport
with the local police, isn't it?"

"Yes, Agent Andrews, it is.  And if you don't know how to
do it, or you know you don't do it very well, then you
don't ever hesitate to allow a master to do the deed.  I
know of only one other person who's as good as Agent
Sandborne," Mulder said with a hint of a smile, "and I've
learned over the last several years to stick with what I
know best.  

"This time, whether you know it or not, Agent Andrews, we
were both smart enough to keep our mouths shut and let
Agent Sandborne do what I have never been able to do, and
that's make nice with the locals." Mulder offered his hand
to Sandborne and said, "Thank you, Agent."

Sandborne took Mulder's hand and shook it firmly.  "You're
welcome, Agent Mulder," he said and felt a kind of pride he
hadn't felt in a long, long time.

As soon as they entered the tent Mulder sensed it.  It
wasn't anything he saw, but rather, it was a chill that
went right through him.  He felt himself involuntarily
shiver as he placed his hand to his cheek, as a way of
measuring the temperature.  His fingertips felt like ice.  

It was a balmy 74 degrees outside.

Suddenly, Mulder felt slightly dizzy and somewhat overcome
with the wave of stench that permeated the air. He looked
at Agent Sandborne for an explanation, but to Mulder's
surprise, Sandborne appeared as if nothing was unusual.

"Oh, goddamn!" rasped out Kenny Andrews.  "Do you smell
that?"

"Smell what?" asked Sandborne, "I don't smell a thing?  I
mean it's warm and everything, but it's not hot enough for
the body to decompose in less than three hours.  So, what
exactly is it you smell, Agent Andrews?"

"But, it's vile," he began, and then added, "Why is it so
damn cold in here?"

"What the hell are you talking about, Greenhorn?"
Sandborne asked and then he turned to Mulder and
practically chuckled in amusement, "Kids, right?" 
Sandborne shook his head and informed Mulder that he was
going to check in with the other pair of local law
enforcement to see if there was any new information that he
could wheedle out of them.

"Good idea, Agent," Mulder agreed quickly.  The men nodded
and Sandborne was off.

"Agent Mulder, I'm not crazy," Andrews implored.

"I know."  

Andrews looked surprised momentarily, and then he sighed
with relief. "You smell it, too?"  Mulder nodded and
Andrews asked with a bit of hesitation, "What the hell is
it?"

"I don't know, Agent Andrews, but it appears it's going to
be up to us to find out, doesn't it?" 

Mulder began his survey of the area.  As was his usual
procedure he began at its perimeter and moved slowly inward
toward its core.  As he observed his surroundings he noted
as many details as possible, and relegated those details to
his memory for future reference.

The experienced agent caught a glance of his young protˇgˇ
as he carefully examined the body of the victim.  Mulder
was very curious to hear his findings and more importantly,
to hear his impressions.  Mulder suspected that Tom
Alexander was right; Agent Andrews had the intuitiveness to
be a damn fine profiler.  Only problem with that was, it
could also be his downfall.

As Mulder walked the circumference he noted how the grassy
path in the aisle on the right side of the tent was worn
away, almost as if the grass died in that particular area. 
Mulder found it curious that the rest of the grounds
appeared to be rather healthy; it was only in that
particular area, the right aisle on the edge of the tent,
that it was eroded away.  There were many brown patches as
well and several, albeit small, totally bare sections.

Mulder knelt down and with a gloved hand pulled up some of
the deadened grass.  Surprisingly, the grass felt warm, and
when Mulder raised it to his nose to sniff it, there was a
faint burnt smell.  

He suddenly flashed on a darkened shadow hovering above
him.  Mulder had no idea as to what it was, but it startled
him and he quickly jumped up from his kneeling position. 
He looked to see if anyone else saw what was standing right
before him, but the others walked around, business as
usual.  The agent took a deep breath and quickly placed the
sample into a plastic evidence bag and moved on in his
circular investigation.

At one point Andrews and Mulder crossed paths and the men
found themselves taking opposite routes.  They stopped and
stared at one another briefly.  Mulder's eyes had grown
dark and focused; he was not surprised to see the younger
man's do the same.  There was no need to talk at this
point.  Discussion and comparison of observations would
come later. Both men needed a chance to absorb and
assimilate the crime scene. Andrews traveled toward the
outer circle of the murder site, while Mulder moved within
a couple of yards of the victim.

Again, something flashed before Mulder.  He couldn't
decide if it was in his mind's eye, or if it was something
actually present at the scene. He looked around quickly to
see if anyone else was reacting to the black cloud of a
shadow that blocked his path to the victim.  He wondered if
the kid could feel it and wanted to call out to him to look.

But he couldn't.  His voice remained suppressed in his
throat and all Mulder could do was shudder with a feeling
of both fear and disgust.  As suddenly as it appeared, it
disappeared and Mulder found himself walking quickly toward
the victim.

He knelt down again and this time touched the black
minister with his gloved hand.  Flashes of images quickly
took a foothold in Mulder's mind and he couldn't shut them
off.  

"Amen, Brothers and Sistas," cried the Reverend Abraham
Stewart, otherwise known as Reverend Abe.  "Let me hear an
AMEN!"

"AMEN!" cried out the congregation.

"This is to tell our God, our Lord, Jesus Christ, our
Savior that we trust in him and that we KNOW that if we
have faith in Him, He will save us!"

"AMEN!" responded the crowd, their cries even louder than
before.

Mulder felt something on his shoulder and then someone was
shaking him.

"Agent Mulder?  Agent Mulder, are you okay?" asked
Sandborne anxiously.

"What?"  Mulder shook his head as if to get rid of some
cobwebs that had suddenly taken up residence.  

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," he said even though he didn't
believe a word of it.  

"Are you sure?  You looked kind of out it," probed
Sandborne.

"Yeah, I'm sure."  Mulder stood up, and felt his bones
crackle a bit. Damn, he thought to himself, I am getting
too old for this shit.

"Well, then if you're okay, would you mind going over and
seeing if the greenhorn's all right?  He's acting a little
funny over there too."

Mulder looked over to where Kenny Andrews stood.  It was
the right aisle of the tent and Mulder could see the
younger man was almost swaying with his eyes shut tight. 
"Shit," he muttered aloud.  Mulder moved as quickly as he
could to Andrews' side.

"Agent Andrews!" Mulder called out and then grasped his
shoulder and shook him.  In a low, but firm voice, he
ordered, "Andrews, come on back.  Now, damn it."

Andrews opened his eyes and uttered very softly, "Amen."

The drive back to the bureau office was a quiet one. 
Sandborne had tried to make a little small talk at first
but soon realized that neither Agent Mulder nor Agent
Andrews were up for any chitchat.  

He pulled into the Bureau parking lot and watched as they
both got of the car in tandem; Mulder exited from the front
passenger side and Andrews from the rear.  Their movements
mirrored one another's and Sandborne felt himself shudder
just a bit at the sight.  They left without looking back or
saying a word.

"Do you drink coffee?" asked Mulder.  The younger man
shook his head and Mulder smiled for the first time in
hours.  "Well, if you're going to become a first class
profiler, Andrews, you're going to have to find a caffeine
source."

"No problem, Agent Mulder," he said as he hoisted a small
duffel bag up from the corner of the office.  He pulled out
two twenty-four-can cases of Coca-Cola.  "And there's
plenty more where these came from."  Kenny exhibited his
first smile in a few hours as well.  

Both men breathed a small sigh of relief, though neither
had been aware of any real tension between them.  It was
more of the situation; it was the crime.  It was the fact
that they were able to see things no one else had been able
to see.

The kid was scared to death about it.

Mulder was resigned.

"So?  Tell me what you're thinking, kid," Mulder said. 
The younger man blushed a bit; he wasn't sure if his hero
was making fun of him or not. He wanted to be taken
seriously, but if Mulder was going to treat him as if he
were a schoolboy, then there was no sense in even bothering
to share his thoughts.

"Listen," Mulder hesitated.  Some might think Mulder was
able to read Andrews's mind, but the older agent would have
been quick to point out there was nothing magical about
being able to read someone who wore his heart on his
sleeve.  Hell, Scully had been able to do that with him
often enough.  He was able to keep everyone else at an
emotional distance, but not her.

Never Scully.

"Listen, Andrews," he began again, "when I call you kid,
it's not an insult, okay?  Shit, I'm the 'old man' in this
little alliance we got going, so let's not walk on
eggshells with one another, okay?"

Andrews nodded, and said, "Well, old man--"

"--Let's not get carried away, Kid, okay?"

Andrews noted the small smile on Mulder's face and
continued, "It was damned near one of the oddest
experiences I've ever had."

"How so?" Mulder probed gently.

"I felt like I was seeing flashes of the scene.  I mean,
before the guy was murdered."

"Yeah," Mulder acknowledged.  The kid looked at Mulder
with his head cocked and wore a puzzled expression. 
"What?" asked Mulder.

"You're not going to even question it?  I mean, you're
just going to accept it at face value?" he asked
incredulously.

"No one's ever accepted what you have to say without
giving you an argument?" asked Mulder.

"Screw that!  I'd love an argument; it's the out and out
dismissals of my ideas that piss me off."  

"Yeah," Mulder said with obvious affection in his voice,
"arguments can be a very good thing.  Keeps you honest."

Andrews nodded at that and then asked, "You believe me. 
You saw them, too, didn't you?"

"Now I know why Alexander picked you out of the lot as
someone to watch," Mulder said with a smile.  "Yeah, I had
some flashes, too. You tell me about  yours and I'll tell
you about mine," he said lightly.

The kid laughed and nodded his head in agreement.  "I kept
seeing this black thing hanging around me, and it was cold.
Damn, Agent Mulder, it felt so damned cold every time it
appeared."

"I saw that too. Oh, and it's just Mulder, please."  Kenny
nodded and then Mulder asked, "What happened just before we
left.  What were you seeing then?"

"Everything, I think."

"Such as?" Mulder probed.

"The people were sitting in the seats.  The reverend was
standing up on the stage and whipping those guys into a
frenzy.  And that's all.  The next thing I remember you
were standing next to me and telling me it was time to come
back here."

"That sounds like something similar to what I
experienced," Mulder acknowledged.

"You're kidding," Andrews reacted incredulously.  Mulder
assured him that he was not kidding, so the kid said, "This
is incredible, Mulder. I mean, what the hell does it mean? 
Why were we the only ones to feel this... this... damn! 
I don't even know how to describe it!  How the hell am I
supposed to put this into a report?" Andrews expressed with
pure frustration.

"Don't worry about that.  The facts will present
themselves, Andrews and we'll have a report, with or
without our so-called icing on the cake details," assured
Mulder.  "Now, tell me your impressions of the crime scene."

And he did.  Kenny Andrews spoke for a solid thirty
minutes before Mulder was able to even ask a question. 
Mulder shook his head in admiration.  The kid was good. 
Really, really good.

And it scared the hell out of Mulder because he knew just
where that ability was going to lead the poor guy.

"So, based upon the scene and the attributes you've
described, tell me your first impressions of our UNSUB,"
Mulder encouraged.

It was the first time all day that Kenny Andrews appeared
speechless.

"Talk to me, Kenny," Mulder encouraged quietly.  "It's
just you and me in here."

"I don't know," he began hesitantly.  "I don't know if I
want to know."

"I know, but if we're going to prevent this from happening
again, we're going to have to start profiling this..."

"Thing," interjected Andrews.  "This entity," he
practically 
spat. "Mulder, the preacher was described by witnesses as 
a good man.  They said he had some inflexible religious 
views as is often the case with a fundamentalist sect, but, 
basically, they said he was a good man.

"He was seared through his heart, Mulder.  Straight
through his heart. This looks like something out of God
Damned Star Wars, but it's not that, Mulder.  I know it's
not that."

"How do you know?" Mulder quickly asked.

"I... I don't know, I just do, damn it!  C'mon, this is no
technological genius we're dealing with, and you know it! 
This is evil, Mulder, this pure evil."

The younger man stood off in a corner with his arms
wrapped around his own body to prevent the involuntary
shudders from traveling through his body.  Mulder looked
away for a moment; he needed to regain control of his own
body's reaction.  

The kid was good, Mulder had to admit it.  He agreed with
everything he'd stated.  Now, what to do about it.

Mulder looked at his watch and realized he was going to
have to check in with Scully soon.  He knew she was going
to ask about the progress of the investigation and how the
kid was getting along.  He knew he was going to have to
tell her something.  

He also knew he was going to have to lie through his teeth
in order to buy himself some time.


Act II

Office of the Assistant Director 
Monday, September 24, 2001 
8:15 a.m.

Scully rapped on the glass so as not to startle Kim as she
sat listening to the voice mail on her phone.  Kim smiled
and waved her to the couch against the wall opposite her
desk.  Scully thought about standing but thought better of
it and sat on the edge of the cushion.

She hadn't been totally surprised when a message on her
own voice mail told her that the assistant director wanted
to see her the minute she got into the office.  She even
expected the fact that her superior's voice would hold that
strained quality it usually had when he was considering the
options of a life sentence for killing her partner, or just
10-20 for attempted murder.  

But that didn't make it any easier to wait for the chewing
out she was expecting.  One of these times, she vowed
silently as she waited, she was going to tape one of these
sessions and force Mulder to listen to it, all day long, if
necessary.

Kim finished getting her messages and looked up at Scully.
"Boy, I don't know what your partner did this time, but I
lost a coffee mug this morning because of him," she said
with an exasperated huff.

"I'll make sure he replaces it, Kim," Scully assured the
woman, just as the inner office door opened and Assistant
Director Skinner loomed in the doorway.  

"Scully.  Now."  Without waiting for her to join him, he
returned into his office and took his place behind his
desk.  Scully couldn't resist a quick peek in his
wastebasket, situated next to his desk as she passed it on
the way to her seat.  Sure enough, the colored remains of a
light brown coffee mug littered the bottom of the can.  

"Don't bother sitting, Agent.  This won't take long,"
Skinner growled and Scully resisted the urge to cringe at
the sound of his voice. Instead, she straightened her back,
squared her shoulders and waited for the coming storm.

"I assume you were informed of your partner's recent
defection to Violent Crimes Section?" Skinner asked, low
and menacing.  It was a double-edged sword.  A yes meant
she knew before the AD and that was bad for her.  A no
meant that Mulder hadn't even bothered to tell his partner,
and that would be even worse for Mulder.

"I found out on Saturday, sir," Scully answered honestly. 
"I heard from him briefly last night.  He and the other
profiler were putting together a preliminary profile. 
Everything seemed fine."

"It would have been nice of him to at least give me a
heads up, after I called SAC Alexander following our
meeting Friday and explained that the X-Files Division was
much too busy with its own cases to offer assistance on
this one," Skinner intoned evenly.  Scully could see the
little vein throbbing at his neck and wondered how close he
was to red-lining on a blood pressure scale.

"Sir, as Agent Mulder explained it to me, this is a
personal favor to SAC Alexander. They have a new profiler,
and Agent Mulder agreed to come in strictly on a consulting
basis.  Once the new agent has his feet under him, Agent
Mulder will be leaving the task force and returning his
attention to his own division.  In the meantime, I am
pursuing the other cases that the division is currently
investigating."

Skinner was unearthly still for a good minute.  Then his
expression softened somewhat and he drew in a deep breath. 
"Off the record, Scully.  This is a profiling case.  I
really hate to think he's working this without..." 
Scully didn't need a road map to know that the AD was
disturbed that she wouldn't be providing her partner with
back up, professional or otherwise.

"I have expressed my own concerns to Agent Mulder, sir,"
she assured him.  "He seems intent on helping VCS out, but
only in as far as the new agent needs assistance getting
started.  He is aware of the potential hazards this case
poses."  To her great relief, Skinner's expression told her
he was able to read between the lines.  She was going to be
on top of this, all the way.

"You will be keeping in contact with him?"  It was more of
a statement, worded as a question.  In other circumstances,
it probably would have been issued as an order.

"Absolutely, sir," Scully responded, nodding for emphasis.

Skinner still wasn't happy, but he seemed to relax a
little.  "Next time, Scully, remind him that I can be
reached off hours and if something like this comes up,
that's exactly how I would prefer it be handled."

"I will do that, sir," Scully said, rising to leave while
the conversation was on relatively neutral ground.

Before she got to the door, Skinner called her name. 
"Scully, that goes for you, too."

Scully didn't say anything, just nodded.  Message
received, if she had any problems with Mulder or detected
any problems, she was to bring them to Skinner first.  

She just hoped it wouldn't come to that.


Dana Scully's apartment 
8:15 p.m.

The bag of groceries held out until she got the door
unlocked.  As she stepped into her apartment, the bottom
ripped out and the contents, including a dozen eggs and a
sixteen-ounce tub of yogurt, spilled out onto her hardwood
floor.  Anger would have been her first emotion, but she
was just too tired.  Instead, she kicked at the mess with
her foot and trudged off toward her bedroom, shedding her
suit jacket and pants as she went.

In jeans and a sweater, she returned to clean up the mess.
Six of the eggs were history, but that still left enough
for an omelet on Saturday. She sighed to herself.  If
Mulder was finished playing 'big brother' to the new guy in
VCS, maybe she could make that a nice six egg omelet and
share it with her partner next Saturday morning.  That
thought made her smile.  The rest of the contents of the
bag were relatively unscathed, so she scrubbed up the egg
yolk and yogurt and put the groceries away.

Dinner consisted of the contents still clinging to the
inside of the tub of yogurt, which she would never admit to
anyone.  "Five-second rule, Scully," Mulder had once
enlightened her.  "It takes germs at least five seconds to
infect something when it lands on the floor."  At the time,
she'd been appalled that her partner could eat food that
had fallen on the motel shag carpet, but as the case they
were on grew longer and the runs to get food grew fewer and
farther in between, she found the economic sense in his
actions.  Besides, she was just too tired to cook.

She glanced at the phone at least four times before
deciding she needed a soak.  She hadn't had a good bubble
bath in... She couldn't remember how long it had been
since she'd had a good soak in the tub. It was once a
Friday night ritual, when the two agents weren't on a case.
But since she'd been spending Friday evenings with Mulder,
she'd traded her bubble bath for something more engaging.

She smiled as slipped into the tub and let the bubbles
tickle her chin. She and Mulder had finally crossed the
line, that invisible line they'd drawn in the sand over
eight years ago.  She drew in a deep breath, thinking how
nice it would be for him to surprise her, sneak in her
apartment and join her in the tub.  There was enough room,
more than enough.  She lay there until the water grew cold,
waiting for him.  It was with a touch of disappointment
that she climbed out of the tepid water and toweled herself
off.  It was only 10 p.m., but she was dead tired, and
now deliciously warm, so she crawled into bed and drifted
off to sleep with the image of Mulder's arms around her,
holding her close.

She was running through an empty airport.  It looked
almost like Dulles, but it could have been any of a hundred
airports she'd been in all across the country.  She
couldn't help wondering where all the people were.  But
more than anything else, she knew she had to find her
partner.

The gates flashed past her as she ran, and the end of the
hall seemed to be getting further and further away.  She
was certain that Mulder was just in front of her, at some
gate she was running toward.  Outside, dark clouds engulfed
the runways and lightning flashed, illuminating the
concourse in eerie shadows.

She saw him, finally, probably no more than fifty yards
away.  She called out to him and he turned toward her,
started to come forward to greet her.  A dark shadow formed
between them, and Mulder was obscured from her view.  She
called his name and heard him call back to her, but his
voice sounded farther away than she knew him to be.  His
voice sounded muffled, and then she heard him yelling,
telling her to run, to get away.

She was about to turn, figuring that he would follow. 
When she didn't hear his footsteps behind her she looked
over her shoulder and saw him struggling.  He was fighting
with the shadow, which had taken the form of a human, much
taller than her 6-foot partner.  The shadow was at least 10
feet tall and Mulder was quickly losing his battle.  Scully
watched in horror as the shadow took hold of Mulder's neck
with long arms and with one quick twist and a loud snap,
Mulder's eyes went wide, his body went limp and he dropped
to the floor.  She couldn't tear her eyes from his lifeless
expression as she started to scream.

Sirens were blaring and she couldn't move, nor could she
break her gaze from the man lying now mere yards from her. 
The shadow seemed to grow even larger and was bearing down
on her when the sirens grew so great that she had to clasp
her hands over her ears...

It was the phone!  Catching her breath, she frantically
glanced around her darkened bedroom, finally realized she'd
just had one hell of a nightmare.  The phone went silent
for a moment, then started ringing again.  She fumbled with
the receiver and finally picked it up with a shaking hand.

"Yes, Scully," she panted, her voice cracking almost as
badly as her hands were shaking.  Cradling the phone
against her shoulder, she wiped at the tears still wet on
her cheeks.

"Scully, you OK?"

She almost cried out in relief.  Mulder.  Just the person
she needed to hear from most.  She took a moment to draw in
a lungful of air and calm down.  She didn't want him to
know she'd been crying in her sleep.  Or what she'd been
crying about.

"I'm fine, Mulder.  I was asleep."

"Asleep?  Scully, it's 11:25 at home.  Since when do you
go to bed before the late news is off?" Mulder asked,
trying to keep his tone light but failing to hide his
concern completely.  "You sure you're OK?"

"Hey, you know how paperwork wears me out.  I was
exhausted when I got home.  I took a bubble bath. . ."

"Stop right there, Scully.  I know all about your dirty
little secret. You get in a bath and you're out for the
night.  And I'd rather not talk about you soaking in a tub
of bubbles unless I'm there to partake in the festivities."

"Awfully presumptuous, aren't you G-Man?" she teased.  It
was so good just to hear his voice.  Her dream was fading
with each breath she heard him take over the phone line. 
"I mean, who said my tub's big enough for the both of us."

"I can squeeze in there somewhere, Scully," he shot back
and she didn't try to hold in her laugh.  

"So, did you get the new kid straightened out?" she asked.
Hearing his voice, she wanted him home more than anything. 
The dream was fading, but the anxiety it produced was still
ripping through her veins.  She didn't like Mulder being
hundreds of miles away with no one but a wet behind the
ears newbie watching his back.  It was too easy for her to
remember her own experience with a raw recruit.  Her side
still ached from time to time to remind her.

"Kenny?  He's a good kid, but I might have to hang on a
couple more days.  Hey, I need a favor," he said, deftly
switching the subject.

"Ah, Mulder," she groaned.  "I hate your favors!"

"Scully!  You haven't even heard this one!  Give me a
chance, please," he whined.

"Yeah, Mulder.  One chance.  Like the one chance I gave
you in Chaney, Texas, and the one chance I gave you in
Arcadia Falls, California, and let's not forget the one
chance I gave you in Pentwater, Michigan..."

"Hey, hold up there!  This one is nothing like those other
times, Scully, I swear."

"Spill it, Mulder.  What's the big favor?" she asked dryly.

"Run up to Monsey, New York and get an exhumation order
for the rabbi who was killed in April."

"Mulder!  That rabbi was Hassidic!"

"Yeah, so?  They didn't do an autopsy, Scully.  We need
that information for the profile.  Besides, Hassidic Jews
abide by the same laws and authorities we all do."

"Oh, well, then why don't you 'run up to Monsey, New York'
and get the exhumation order, Mulder?" she taunted.

"Because you're much harder to turn down, Scully," he
replied quickly and she could almost see the leering smile
on his all too handsome face. A smile she would have dearly
loved to scrub right off his kisser at that moment.

"Oh, all right.  I'll go.  But they have every reason to
deny this request, Mulder.  You have very little to go on
and the other autopsies haven't given you any additional
leads," she reminded him.

"I know, Scully.  But those other autopsies weren't done
by you," he pointed out.  Damn him, he was always using
praise to get his way. She'd have to get him for that,
someday.

"So, it's late.  Are you calling me before you turn in?"
she asked, no longer wishing to spend their precious time
arguing over exhumation orders.

"Nah, actually, we just cracked open Kenny's second case
of Coke and we're going to get started on the preliminary
profile."

"Mulder, did you say..."

"Coca-Cola, Scully.  That Coke.  Kenny doesn't imbibe
caffeine the same way you and I do.  I have a pot of motel
bathroom coffee and he's shootin' Cokes."

"Well, remember to get some sleep, all right?  You made me
a promise."

"One I fully plan on keeping, Scully.  I'm fine.  Really."
Even as he spoke the reassurances, a cold chill ran the
length of her spine and suddenly all she could see was the
shadow snapping his neck and Mulder falling dead to the
ground at her feet.  She had to take several deep breaths
to keep from crying out again.

"Mulder..." she started.  She wanted to warn him, force
him back home.  Short of that, she wanted to get on the
first plane to Biloxi and stick to him like glue, making
certain neither of them ended up in any deserted airports.

"I know, Scully.  I really miss you, too," he answered
back tenderly, totally misunderstanding what she was trying
to put into words.  "But I'll see you soon.  Hey, this week
it's my turn to pick the movie.  I'll make sure I'm home by
Friday night."

"Mulder, please, I just..."

"Just a minute, Kenny.  Look, Scully, I gotta go.  The kid
can't figure out how to hook up the modem on the phone in
his room.  I'll try to call you tomorrow.  And let me know
about the exhumation, we really need that autopsy."

"Mulder..."

"You, too.  Talk to you soon."  The line was disconnected
before she could slip in another word.  She laid the phone
down its cradle and let the tears fall hot down her cheeks.


Tuesday, September 25, 2001 
10 a.m.

As Scully punched in the touch-tones to place the call to
Monsey, New York, she realized her fingers still trembled
slightly.  No matter how hard she tried to talk herself
into thinking her dream last night was nothing more than a
manifestation of her missing Mulder, she knew that it was
more than that.  She couldn't even call it a nightmare.  It
was more than that, too.

A vision.  It was more like that, and it scared the hell
out of her.

She heard the phone ringing on the other end and drew a
breath in anticipation of the voice on the other side.  She
grasped the receiver more tightly in an effort to calm her
skittish fingers.

"Hello?" 

"Hello, Mr. Steiger?" asked Scully tentatively. She
hesitated momentarily as she realized she wasn't quite
certain how to pronounce the witness's first name.

"Yes, this is Reuven Steiger," he responded. 

Oh.  That's how, she thought to herself with a small
smile.  "Mr. Steiger, my name is Dana Scully and I'm a
special agent with the FBI, in Washington.  I need to speak
with you to clarify some details regarding Rabbi
Zimmerman's death last April."  She'd realized she wasn't
sure of the pronunciation of the rabbi's first name as
well, 'Shmuel.'

"I've already spoken with the police, Miss Scully.  I
don't know what else I could possibly add," he said in a
soft, but firm voice.

"There's always a possibility that some detail has been
left out, Mr. Steiger. Please, it would be of great help if
I may speak with you in person."

There was silence for several moments, and Scully feared
her request would be refused.  "Mr. Steiger?" she asked
hopefully.

"Miss Scully, please understand, it's not that I wish to
be difficult," he began in his soft toned voice.  "Tomorrow
evening is Erev Yom Kippur, the holiest of holy days for
the Jewish people.  I must be free to help my family
prepare for it; I don't want to seem rude, but I have
little time to rehash a statement that I'd already given to
the sheriff.

"That was a very difficult time for me; for my entire
family and the congregation of our shul.  Please understand
if I'm reluctant to relive it."

"Mr. Steiger, I do understand, and it is not my intent to
intrude upon your family during your holiday.  I can catch
a shuttle to New York this afternoon.  We could meet, and
then I'll be out of your hair shortly after that.  I
promise."

Scully wondered momentarily to herself if she weren't
going to be damned to hell for lying to the young man.  She
was going to ask permission to exhume the body of the man's
Rabbi, for heaven's sake.  If that wasn't getting into
one's hair, she wasn't sure what was.

"Very well, Miss Scully, I'll meet you in our synagogue's
office this afternoon.  Do you have a time in mind?" 

Scully knew there was a hourly business shuttle that left
Dulles on weekday mornings, so she was fairly certain that
if she moved quickly she could catch a flight, grab a
rental car at the airport and be in Monsey by one o'clock.


Monsey, New York 
1:15 p.m.

As Scully entered the aging building, she couldn't help
but feel the conflicting sense of peace and unrest that was
pervasive throughout. She was overwhelmed with feelings of
discord within herself, but couldn't account for any of it.
The building resembled the one she'd been in New York City,
when she and Mulder battled an unexplainable phenomena, a
golem.

She noticed that there were pews on the ground level,
where she stood, as well as above in a balcony.  She also
noted lightweight, sheer curtains, which hung from the
balcony pews, and wondered what their purpose was.  The
wooden pews were well maintained and cared for. The temple
was old, but it was well cared for.

"Hello?" she called out tentatively.  "Mr. Steiger?"

"Yes, yes, coming," responded a voice.  

Scully wasn't sure what she was expecting Reuven Steiger
to look like, but based upon his soft-spoken tone and
demeanor over the phone, she knew she'd never imagined the
form that stood before her.

Reuven Steiger stood at least six foot three inches,
perhaps four.  All she knew was that this young man
certainly would tower over Mulder.  He stood straight, so
his posture accounted for every millimeter of his height. 
He was dressed formally, much more so than Scully would
have anticipated, but the suit was slightly wrinkled which
told her he didn't own many of them.  This one was badly in
need of pressing and she suspected he was getting one more
wearing out of it before he traded it in for a suit
reserved for the Jewish High Holy Days.

She held out her hand in a gesture of introduction, but he
shook his head slightly and said softly, "Forgive me, Miss
Scully, but it's not considered proper.  May I ask you to
join me in the office.  Please?"

Scully nodded her head as she withdrew her hand.  Though
the situation could have easily made her feel foolish or
humiliated, Reuven Steiger's quiet manner did neither, and
if anything actually put her more at ease.

When they entered the office, Scully was somewhat
surprised to see a woman in the room as well.  "Miss
Scully, this is my wife, Rifka. We felt it would be more
proper if my wife was present when I met with you."  

Scully felt like smacking her head; of all the utmost
stupidity on her part!  Of course Reuven would be
uncomfortable meeting with her alone. As a Hassidic Jew he
would not normally meet alone with a female officer. 
Scully hoped her faux pas did not hamper her interview too
much.  

"Rifka, this is the police officer I told you about," said
Reuven as he interrupted Scully's thoughts.  

"Mrs. Steiger, it's nice to meet you." This was received
by a nod of acknowledgment by the younger woman.  Scully
kept her hand at her side. "I would like to clarify that
I'm not with the police here in New York. I am a federal
agent out of Washington DC."

"Yes, I'm sorry. We do know that."

"Very well, I promised to be as brief as possible, so why
don't we begin?" offered Scully.  At the nod of the couple,
Scully began asking general questions regarding the events
that led up to Rabbi Zimmerman's death and what Reuven, the
first person on the scene to find the rebbe, did.  

"Then, as I told the sheriff's deputy, I walked into the
office to see if the rebbe was still there, which I'd
strongly suspected."

"This was before Friday night services?" interrupted Scully.

"Oh yes, well before.  It was only 2:30 in the afternoon. 
Rivka had made some soup for Shabbat dinner, and she asked
me to bring a bowl of it to Reb Shmuel since she was sure,
as was I, that he hadn't left for home to eat before
services."

"Why is that?" asked Scully.

"Why is what?" 

"Why didn't the rabbi leave?  What do you believe he was
doing that prevented him from going home for a noon meal?"
asked Scully.

Steiger looked pensive for a moment.  Scully watched his
reaction closely, this question had not been asked in the
earlier report on file. "He was always studying, Miss
Scully.  He was always trying to learn more the ways of our
God."

"Such as?"

"I don't understand," replied a confused Steiger.

"Rabbi Steiger--" Scully began.

"No, Miss Scully. I am not a rabbi.  I have not achieved
that honor. Reb Eisenberg is our religious leader now.  I
am merely his assistant as I was Reb Shmuel's assistant."

"Oh, I'm sorry, it's just that it seemed as if you were so
aware of the inner workings of the Temple and you seem to
be here as much as the Rabbi."

"He was," murmured Rifka.

"He was?" echoed Scully.

"Rifka, please, you are here as an observer," said Reuven
with firmness that Scully hadn't heard up till now.  "Now,
Miss Scully, if there are no other questions, my wife and I
need to get ready for our holiday."

Scully hesitated; she wanted desperately to follow up on
Rifka's involuntary comment, but she knew the younger woman
would not willingly respond if her husband did not want her
to answer.  Scully was also not sure if she had the nerve
to make the request that Mulder had made of her.  She took
a deep breath and moved forward.

"Mr. Steiger, there is one more question, request
actually. There was never a full autopsy performed on Rabbi
Zimmerman.  Can you explain why not?"

Reuven eyes widened slightly; it wasn't a question that he
should have been surprised to hear, but nonetheless he
wasn't quite sure how to answer it either.

"I found him at 2:30 in the afternoon.  We had a
very narrow window, Miss Scully."

"I'm sorry, I don't understand," interrupted Scully. 
"Narrow window for what?"

"To bury our religious leader according to Jewish Law. 
You see, you can't have a funeral on the Sabbath, nor can
you have one on the first day of Passover, which happened
to follow the Sabbath this year.  Judaic law dictates that
we bury our dead within twenty-four hours.  

"This was our rabbi, Miss Scully," Steiger implored.  "If
we didn't have a service for him that afternoon, we would
have had to wait till three days later, which would have
also been the second day of Passover.  We didn't want to do
an injustice to our rebbe.  We wanted to give him a proper
burial, immediately."

"I can't imagine that you were able to organize the
service that quickly, Mr. Steiger," responded Scully
somewhat skeptically.

"Miss Scully, this is a very small community.  It doesn't
take a great deal of effort for us to all come together in
a time of need.  Our rebbe needed us.  There was no
question as to whether we would be able to accomplish our
task," responded Reuven.

"But Mr. Steiger, how could the police allow you to bury
the rabbi without a formal inquiry.  His death was
untimely; it was unexplained," queried Scully.

"It was anything but untimely, Miss Scully.  The rebbe was
a man well into his eighties.  He had a long, full life in
which he garnered a community of followers that would do
anything for him.  The timeliness of his death was not in
question."

"But the manner?  Mr. Steiger, you reported to the police
that he had a hole in his chest!" declared Scully with a
hint of ire.  The pathologist in her couldn't understand
how the rebbe's congregation wouldn't want to know the
cause of their religious leader's death.

"I explained exactly what I saw, Miss Scully.  I withheld
no information and the county medical examiner took a
number of pictures.  It was quickly determined that there
must have been a terrible accident that caused the burns to
appear.  I don't know why, but the medical examiner
decided, after much discussion with the deputies involved
that it would not be in the best interest of the community
to conduct an autopsy. They claimed they wouldn't be able
to derive any new information from it anyway. The medical
examiner did evaluate the body's condition and determined
the death was of unknown origin," explained Steiger.

"I don't understand how the Rockland County Sheriff's
Department could just allow the M.E. to conduct a
superficial
exam and claim an autopsy was not needed.  This was highly
unorthodox!" declared Scully, unaware of the pun she'd
unintentionally made.

Even Rifka chuckled, to which Scully opened her mouth and
muttered a quick apology.  "Miss Scully, if I may speak?"
Rifka actually looked over at her husband for permission
rather than Scully, and when he nodded slightly, she
continued.  "You have to understand something else about
this community.  It has had a difficult history in the
area.  We have been subject to some strife in recent
history, and the people of this community are not always,
shall we say, willing to cooperate with the authorities. 
That's not to say that we shouldn't; there is nothing in
Jewish Law that says we should not cooperate with the
authorities.  

"But understand, that many of our community members are
rather sheltered; they rarely if ever leave the area. 
Their whole life revolves around the small area that is
Monsey.  The sheriff's department is not always a body that
our community puts its trust in.  The death of our rebbe
was a shock; it also occurred right before the Sabbath and
a major Jewish holiday.

"That in and of itself would have been enough to set off
demonstrations by anti-Jewish groups; the rebbe's death,
unfortunately was welcomed by all too many hate groups.  We
wanted our rebbe to be buried in peace. We didn't want
there to be any questions regarding the virtue and piety of
this great man," concluded Rifka.

"Why would anyone question that?" asked Scully curiously.

Reuven stood up.  "There was no reason to question it," he
stated quickly in a tone that indicated the conversation
was over.

However Scully still needed to make her request.  She
remained seated and with a gentle firmness stated, "Mr.
Steiger, the FBI wants to exhume the rebbe's body in order
to perform an autopsy."

"What?" gasped Reuven.  "No!" 

"But, Mr. Steiger, you must understand, we need to see if
there's any forensic evidence to support similarities in
the deaths of three clergy members.  The Catholic priest
was also killed in Chicago around the same time as the
Rabbi.  There was a Lutheran minister killed over the
summer and just recently there was a Baptist minister who
was apparently killed in a similar manner in Mississippi. 
We have to find out what killed these men."

"It would be impossible to even consider exhuming the
rebbe's body before the end of the High Holy Days.  Please,
Miss Scully.  You must understand what such a request would
do to this community so shortly before Yom Kippur.  Please,
Miss Scully.  Please do not ask us to do this now," Steiger
pleaded.

"I understand, Mr. Steiger.  We'll wait, but understand
that I can get a court order, and will do so if necessary. 
I'll return on Friday morning, Sir."

Reuven sat down heavily in the chair and simply nodded. 
He stared vacantly into space and remained mute.  

"Are you all right?" Scully asked with concern.  He nodded
in response but didn't speak.  "I'll speak to you on Friday
morning, Mr. Steiger." 

Scully was about to step out the door when she turned to
Reuven and said quietly, "Have a good day, Mr. Steiger,
Mrs. Steiger."

Reuven raised his eyes and said softly, "Thank you, Miss
Scully."

Rifka gave her thanks as well, and then said quietly,
"I'll walk you out, Miss Scully."  She turned to her
husband and said, "Reuven, finish up; we need to go home
soon."

He nodded and numbly watched her accompany Scully out the
door.

"I have but a moment to speak, and then my husband will
become worried that I have ill spoke," whispered Rifka
hurriedly as she and Scully arrived at the door to the shul.

"What is it?  What did you mean before when you said
Reuven didn't spend all his time here anymore?" asked
Scully.

"The rebbe was a wise and wonderful man, Miss Scully. He
wanted to learn all that God had to offer him.  That
included the words of Kabbalah; that's Jewish Mysticism." 
Scully nodded her understanding and Rifka continued. 
"There was a section in the Kabbalah that Reb Shmuel began
studying with great interest."

When Rifka hesitated, Scully urged her to continue, if for
no other reason that both women feared Reuven would
discover them deep in discussion.  "I see you wear the sign
of the cross.  Are you Catholic, Miss Scully?  When Scully
nodded 'yes,' Rifka said, "Then you are well aware of the
history of exorcism in the Church?"  Once again, Scully
nodded.

"Miss Scully, were you also aware that there are exorcists
on the payroll of the Catholic Church even today as we
speak?"

"You're kidding?" Scully retorted, and then seeing the
expression on her companions face realized she was doing
anything but.  "Rifka, how is it that you are so aware of
all of this?  You're obviously an educated woman; you've
been out in the world, haven't you?"

"Miss Scully, my full name is Dr. Rifka Steiger.  I am a
pediatrician with a full time practice in Rockland County. 
I also helped the medical examiner determine there was no
need for an autopsy."

"What? But how could you?"

"I had to, Miss Scully.  I had to protect Reuven."

"Reuven?  Protect him from what?"

"From whatever evil did that to Reb Shmuel.  The rebbe was
teaching Reuven about the Kabbalah, about exorcism.  The
two of them would sit and study and argue all through the
night, and would never stop if I didn't come to drag both
of them home."

"Both of them home?  You say that as if--" Scully said
bewildered.

"I say it as if Reb Shmuel was my father.  My father,
for a Chassid was a very worldly man, Miss Scully.  He
didn't have to, but he allowed me to go into the world to
learn the ways of modern medicine so I could be of service
to our community.  

"Reuven and I loved my father very much, Miss Scully.  Our
community revered him, but he was traveling down a
dangerous, religious path. If the elders in our religious
community got wind that my father was studying about
exorcism, there would have been problems.  Big problems.

"I did not want to see my father's name tarnished, so I
convinced the M.E. that it wasn't necessary nor good
community PR to order an autopsy on the beloved, elderly
community rebbe," she said, and then softly added, "May God
forgive me."

"Forgive you for what, Rifka?" Scully asked gently.

"Forgive me for letting the devil get away with murder."


Biloxi Fairgrounds 
9:45 p.m.

The storm had been brewing over the Gulf for about two
days, so when it finally hit land, it brought with it gale
force winds and driving rain. Mulder stood just outside the
big tent, watching the wind whip the top and billow it up
into a grotesque imitation of a mushroom cloud.  

He jerked at his suit jacket collar in a feeble attempt to
stop the rain coursing down his neck.  When he'd left
Washington, he'd forgotten his raincoat at the office.  Not
that he would have bothered to remember it this time.  He
was just running out to get another look at the scene.

That's what he'd told Kenny and that's what he'd written
in the note he left for Tom.  Kenny had started to come
along, but one look from Mulder and the kid had cringed and
went back to the computer, searching for any possible
connections between the victims, schools, military service,
any thing they could go on.

From the outside, and to the other task force members, the
trail was beginning to grow cold.  No new murders in three
days and no evidence from the most recent murders to point
the task force in a direction to follow.  Only Mulder and
Kenny felt any progress was being made.  But the progress
was in knowing the killer's motivations, and not
necessarily in figuring out exactly who it was doing the
murders.

They'd stayed up all night hammering out a profile. 
Several sheets of yellow legal pad and about a dozen number 
2lead pencils fell victim to Mulder's temper during the
long hours.  He cautioned Kenny on placing too much
reliance 
on the 'feelings' they'd both had at the crime scene at the
fairgrounds.  But at the same time, he knew in his gut that

the dark shadow and the chill he'd felt was as much
tangible evidence that would lead them to the murderer as a
fingerprint or a DNA sample.  

The burned ground had haunted his dreams, when Mulder had
finally fallen asleep for half an hour just before dawn. 
He could see the dark shadow passing over the green grass,
burning everything in its path.  That dark shadow was
filled with hatred and cold, an evil so all-encompassing
that it took Mulder's breath away.

Kenny had experienced a nightmare, too, though he wouldn't
confide in Mulder.  He'd been sprawled across the bed, not
even having removed his shoes, when Mulder had gotten up to
take a shower.  When Mulder came back out, the young man
was sitting up stiffly on the edge of the bed, breathing
heavily.  Mulder was certain he saw the tracks of dried
tears on the kid's face.  That just served to strengthen
Mulder's resolve on what he had to do.

There was no way he could let the kid face this evil.  He
was still too young, too inexperienced, too much of a
tenderfoot to face anything so heinous and destructive. 
Mulder knew he'd have to face this thing himself, alone.   

The wind howled around him, giving the big tent the
ominous feel of a giant yawning mouth, waiting to devour
anyone who neared it.  Mulder wiped more rain from his face
and walked under the edge of the tent. The wind was blowing
so hard that the tent only marginally protected him from
the torrential downpour.  Cautiously, he pulled out his
Maglight and moved further into the tent.

The images played in his head again.  The Reverend Abraham
Stewart was standing tall and proud on the raised platform.
He didn't use the podium that had been placed there for his
convenience.  He preferred to be close to his congregation.
He held a worn Bible in his hands, opened it with a tender
caress of the gold leaf pages and began to recite.

"Then the devil took Him to the Holy City;" Abraham said,
his voice slow and low with emotion.

"Amen, brother!" shouted many in the crowd.

"And he had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and
said to Him, 'If you are the Son of God, then row yourself
down; for it is written He will give His angels charge
concerning You; and on their hands they will bear You up
least you strike your foot against a stone.'"  Sweat poured
from his face as Abraham held the book high above his head
and raised his face to the Lord.

"Amen!  Hallelujah!" shouted the crowd.

"And Je-sus said to him, 'On the other hand, it is
written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test!'"

The Reverend Stewart closed the book and closed his eyes. 
Reaching forward, he touched the head of a woman kneeling
down in front of him.

"BE GONE! I say, Satan!  Be gone from this woman of the
Lord!"

And the woman began to writhe and fell backward, eyes
rolling back in her head, shaking uncontrollably.  The
reverend kept shouting, "Be gone, Satan!  Be gone, you
fallen angel!  You have no place in God's world. Be gone! 
Be gone!"

Mulder stumbled under the wave of anger and hatred that
rushed into him. Humiliation, despair, betrayal all warred
against each other for his attention.  But most of all,
overriding everything else, he was filled with revenge.

"Agent Mulder?"

It was like coming up for a breath when he'd been under
water too long. Air was sucked into his lungs not by the
act of breathing, but as a vacuum is filled with the seal
is broken.  He swallowed hard, tried to quiet his heart
where it pounded in his chest.

"Agent Mulder, I'm sorry.  I tried to call you on your
cell phone.  I think we might be out of range of a cell."

"Andrews, what the fuck are you doing out here?" Mulder
growled, not even sure why he was suddenly so angry.

"I'm sorry.  I know you wanted to come out here alone, but
I needed to find you.  It's important."  The kid was
trembling, but as far as Mulder could tell, it was probably
from the wind and the storm.

"Well, you found me.  Now, what the hell do you want?"

Kenny swallowed and licked rain off his lip.  "There's
been an accident."


Act III 

Biloxi Mercy Hospital 
10:30 p.m.

"They said the accident happened sometime around 9.  The
car was struck head-on by a drunk driver," Kenny explained
as they got off the elevator.

"The other driver?"

"Dead at the scene.  Mulder, we haven't been able to get
hold of the next of kin."  Kenny chewed on his lip and
looked all the more like a kid of 24.

Mulder stopped and shut his eyes, rocking back on his
heels.  It hurt. He didn't think it was possible to hurt
this much when it wasn't even...

"I'll make that call.  But first, I want something to go
on."  

Kenny nodded and pointed in the direction of the nurses
station.

Mulder pulled out his badge and showed it to the nurse
behind the desk. "I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder with the
FBI.  I understand another agent was brought in tonight. 
Thomas Alexander."

The nurse took a minute to consult her computer screen. 
"Yes, Mr. Alexander was brought by ambulance.  I'm afraid I
can't give you much information, except to tell you he's
been taken to surgery."

Mulder nodded his thanks.  "Is there a pay phone nearby?"

The nurse smiled and pointed to a bank of phones just
across the hall. Mulder headed over, picking up the first
receiver and closing his eyes again before dialing a number
by heart.

"Sally?  It's Mulder, Fox Mulder.  Yeah, long time for
sure.  Sally, you need to get down here to Biloxi.  Tom's
been hurt."


Biloxi Mercy Hospital 
Wednesday, September 26, 2001 
6:15 a.m.

Mulder paced the small waiting room.  Other agents had
arrived shortly after him and Kenny, but he pointedly
ignored all of them.  Sally Alexander was booked on a 5:30
flight from Falls Church, Virginia.  She was due at the
Biloxi airport at 6:45.  Mulder hoped she'd get there in
time.

More than once he'd started to call Scully, but had
stopped himself. What could she do but offer her sympathy? 
He missed her voice, wanted to hold her in his arms, but
that felt like it would be comfort for himself and he
wasn't the one needing comfort.  Sally needed comfort. He
needed to be strong for Tom and his wife.

He hadn't seen Sally since the wedding.  Tom's brother had
been the best man, but Tom had asked Mulder to stand up
with him as a groomsman. Sally had tried several times
during the reception to hook Mulder up with her cousin, but
he'd managed to escape that fate.  Now, he couldn't even
picture the girl in his mind.

"Mulder, want some coffee?" Kenny was standing there, a
Styrofoam cup in one hand and a familiar red can in the
other, looking way too much like a hopeful puppy begging to
be patted on the head.  Mulder stamped down the urge to
smack the kid across the room and shook his head.  

"No, thanks."

"Do you think..."

"We don't know anything, Andrews," Mulder spat out, but
when he saw the wounded look on the young man's face, he
struggled to get hold of his temper.  "Look, Kenny, the
doctors don't know anything right now.  He made it through
surgery.  That's the good part.  But with the kind of head
trauma he sustained, well, let's just say a coma might be
the lesser of two evils."

"It all happened so fast.  One minute he'd called from the
police station telling me he wanted to look at our profile
and then next minute the hospital was calling.  The phone
number to my motel room was the last number he'd dialed on
his cell phone," Kenny said miserably.

"Don't blame yourself, kid.  You had nothing to do with
this.  It was an accident."

"Still, he was thinking about the case.  Maybe his mind
wasn't on the road..."

"Stop it, Kenny!  I mean it.  Just get off that track
right now.  You had absolutely nothing to do with this."

Kenny was silent for a minute, then he squared his jaw. 
"Yeah, but if I'd given him a good profile, we'd have
closed this case already and he never would have been on
that road."  Without giving Mulder a chance to reply, he
turned on his heel and left the waiting room.

Mulder closed his eyes again and trembled with the effort
it took him to keep from putting his fist through the wall.

A hand on his shoulder brought him around to reality.

"Fox, it's been a long time."

Sally stood beside him, looking a little older than when
he'd last seen her.  She was still blonde, what most people
would call 'perky,' but there was a fear in her eyes that
he would have given anything to replace.

"Yeah, too long.  Sally, I don't know what to say," he
muttered as he drew the petite woman into a loose hug.  She
drew away quickly and wiped at her eyes.  "I just talked to
the doctor."

He didn't want to know.  But he had to ask.  "And?"

Slowly, she shook her head.  The tears left little tracks
on her cheeks. It was everything Mulder could do to keep
from wiping them away.  But that wasn't his place.  He bit
the inside of his lip to keep from crying.

She started to say something else, but someone called her
name -- one of the doctors Mulder vaguely remembered from
seeing earlier in the night. He was coming toward them with
a very serious look on his face. 

Suddenly, Sally froze.  The doctor hadn't gotten within
10 feet of them and she was shaking her head back and
forth.  

"No.  No, it can't be.  No."  She started walking backward
and ran right into Mulder.

"Mrs. Alexander, I'm very sorry," the doctor started to
take her shoulder, but Mulder waved him off.  He turned
Sally in his arms and held her while she cried.

Kenny watched helplessly from his seat near the wall.  A
noise startled him and he realized Mulder's jacket was
ringing.  He reached over and dug out the older agent's
cell phone.

"Hello?" he said, hesitantly.  "Um, Agent Mulder's phone."

"Who is this?" asked a terse voice on the other end of the
phone line.

"This is Agent Kenneth Andrews.  Now, who is this?" Kenny
shot back.

"Agent Scully, Agent Mulder's partner.  Where is he?"

Kenny looked across the room.  Mulder had managed to get
Sally over to a bank of chairs on the opposite wall and was
holding her while she sobbed uncontrollably.

"He's indisposed at the moment.  Can I take a message?" 
He had to hold his hand over his ear as the P.A. system went
off paging a doctor.

"Where are you?  Are you at the hospital?  What's
happened?  Where's Mulder?  Is he hurt?"

She was asking the questions so fast and furious, Kenny
almost couldn't get a word in edgewise.  "Hey! Agent
...Sculder? Calm down!  No, he's not hurt.  Yes, we are at
the hospital.  There was a car accident. SAC Alexander... 
he was in a car wreck.  He, uh, he... he didn't make it."  
Kenny felt his throat close up and croaked out the last 
words.  He didn't want to cry, but he wished he were
anywhere else so he could break down.

"Tom?  Tom Alexander's dead?" came the voice on the phone.
"Oh God, Mulder must be devastated," she said with a sad
sigh. 

"Well, right now he's pretty busy trying to calm down
Tom's wife," Kenny told her.

"I better get down there," Scully announced.  "I don't
know when I'll be able to get a flight, but I'll be there
as soon as I can."


Biloxi Blues Motel 
8:12 a.m.

Mulder exited the rental and slammed the car door. Hard. 
Kenny jerked in reaction and immediately clambered out of
the driver's seat to follow him.  Mulder didn't want to
deal with the kid at that moment.  He couldn't.  He'd just
finished holding Tom Alexander's widow in his arms in a
vain attempt to console her, but all the while berating
himself for selfishly wondering if he would be able to
solve this case without his friend's steady hand.

Tom knew when he'd agreed to have Mulder join the team
what they were both getting into.  Mulder was going to do
his damnedest to find the killer, and Tom was going to do
his damnedest to keep Mulder from going insane. 

Tom had seen it happen all too often while both were
working under Patterson in the early days.  Bill would pass
out serial cases for his people to profile; only Mulder
always seemed to get twice as many. Maybe because Mulder
could solve 'em twice as fast.  The problem with that was
that Mulder would never have any down time.  More than once
Tom had found his former roommate holed up in a tiny office
in the VCS dungeon at Quantico staring into space.  More
than once Tom had been tempted to call for an ambulance,
and only when Tom had screamed threats of just such an
action, did Mulder snap out of his trance-like state.

But now Tom was dead, and Mulder's immediate tether to
sanity was dead too.  His true lifeline was miles away and
on the trail of more information for the case, so he
couldn't count on Scully at that point for comfort.  All he
had was a profiling newbie who was probably going to get
himself killed because he had no idea what the hell they
were dealing with.  And the last thing Mulder wanted to do
at that moment was try and explain it to the kid.  

Tom's death hurt. It wasn't only because Tom was a
steadying force for him on this case.  Nor was it just
because Mulder had lost a friend; Tom was someone Mulder
was able to associate with a pleasant memory from his VCS
past, a rarity in and of itself.  But Tom's passing,
coupled with Mulder's seemingly inability to console Sally
Alexander over her husband's untimely death reminded Mulder
of something. No matter how good of a profiler he still was
it didn't negate the fact that he was still a mere mortal
and subject to the same rules of life, and death, as all
men were.  

And the combination of Tom's death and the gut feeling he
was getting about this case made that epiphany all the more
frightening to Mulder. Mulder was scared to death, and that
did not bode well for either him or the kid in this case.
Fear could work for you in that it could make you cautious
and wary of taking foolish steps.  However it could also
work against you; it could freeze you from taking the
necessary steps to prevent another killing.  Mulder was at
a crossroads.  He was ready to stand frozen in place, but
then the kid spoke.

"Mulder, wait!  You're right!  There was nothing I could
do to have prevented this.  It was a damned drunk driver,
and Tom was in the wrong place at the right time.  But
Mulder! Damn it Mulder, look at me!" he screamed as the
older agent had continued to walk away from him.  Mulder
halted and turned to look at the Kenny.

"Mulder, you couldn't have done anything either.  There
was nothing you could have pieced together to prevent that
drunk from slamming into Tom."

"What the hell are you talking about, Andrews?" Mulder
asked tensely.

"You KNOW what I'm talking about.  You KNOW!" he
practically screamed.

And the truth of the matter was, Mulder did know, but what
disturbed him most was that the kid knew too.  He'd already
sensed that Kenny had the makings of a good profiler; he
hadn't realized that Kenny had the makings of another
'Spooky' Mulder.  But for the kid's sake, Mulder knew he
couldn't let on that Kenny was on the right track.  That
would be too dangerous.

"Andrews, I don't know what the hell you're talking about.
I'm going to go into my room and get some shuteye.  I
suggest you go into your room and do the same."  And with
that he turned and left Kenny Andrews staring at him with
his mouth slightly agape.  

As the door to Mulder's room slammed shut, the younger
agent remembered he hadn't told him that his partner had
called and was on the way.  The way Mulder was acting, it
could wait.

Mulder entered the small motel room and prayed Kenny
wouldn't decide to play nursemaid and knock at his door. 
He practically held his breath as he listened for the slam
of the door to the room next door.  When he did hear it,
Mulder sighed with relief and sat down on the bed that was
covered with files and papers with scrawls of notes.

Though he was practically dead on his feet, Mulder had no
intention of sleeping.  There was a killer to be caught,
and Mulder knew that he was the only one who had a chance
of doing it.  He didn't understand how he would accomplish
this as yet, nor did he understand why, of all people, it
should be him to do so, but neither of those mattered. 
What did matter was that there was a killer, an entity that
was capable of picking off people at will and leaving them
dead with a hole in their heart.

As Mulder felt himself become emotional at the thoughts of
his victims, he knew he had to keep himself in check.  He
needed to pull himself back from the case and begin to
think more objectively.  

He stood up and stretched. He looked for something to use
as leverage to crack the vertebrae in his back.  What he
wouldn't give for his stickball bat.  When he couldn't find
anything he placed his hands firmly on the small of his
back and bent backwards. He experienced some relief and
then bent forward touching his toes.  He did some stretches
to both sides and then tried to relax his neck and
shoulders.  

His head felt somewhat clearer and he allowed himself to
get his mind back on the case.  There were still so many
questions that he had no answers for.  What was the UNSUB's
motivation?  The victims were all clergymen, but why those
particular men.  There seemed to be no commonalties among
them other than they were leaders in their respective
religious communities.  

What were the common traits among the victims that would
lead the UNSUB to pick those particular men.  The reverend
was in his 40s, the priest was in his early 70s, and the 
rabbi was in his 80s. There seemed to be nothing these 
men's backgrounds that indicated a common ground.  The 
rabbi was a widower, the reverend was married, and the 
priest was celibate.  He knew he was beginning to clutch 
at straws.

Mulder began to pace around the room as thoughts began to
form.  He held a pen in his hand and a yellow legal pad in
the other.  He began scratching the words down as his mind
brainstormed leaps of seemingly incongruent thoughts.  

Beliefs.

Common.

Teachings.

Religious.

Renegade.

Religious renegades.  Mulder looked at the pairing of
those two words and wondered why that made sense to him. 
What would make a man be considered a religious renegade? 
How could men in their 70s and 80s be renegades? What were 
their beliefs?  Beliefs.  It came back to that again. 

"Damn it!  Damn it!  What the hell was I thinking!" he
cried out as he flung the notepad to the floor.  Mulder
began to furiously pull at the papers on his bed.  He
picked up file after file, paper after paper, index card
after index card of copious notes until finally, he found
the part of the report that held a seemingly innocuous
piece of data.

The paper was from the Zimmerman file.  It was an
accounting of the body as it was found in the synagogue. 
Though Mulder had reviewed and reviewed the details, few as
there were due to the lack of an autopsy, the one item
Mulder did not concern himself with was what Mulder now
believed was the key that would unlock the door to the
reasons behind the murders.

The elderly rebbe had been clutching a copy of the Sefer
ha-Razim, a book of ancient writings otherwise known as the
Book of Secrets.  It was a book of magic, written by a
Palestinian Jew of the Talmudic period, dealt with the
forgotten field of Jewish magic.  Apparently Reb Zimmerman
had been looking to rediscover it.

Mulder then searched frenetically for the next piece of
information that he hoped would tie these men together. 
Father Michael Nelson, 70 years old was the parish priest
at 
St. Gertrude's for almost twenty years.  There was nothing 
out of the ordinary about that, but Mulder knew there had
to 
be more.  There had to be...  "Holy shit!" he exclaimed 
aloud.  

There it was.  The details were finally starting to fit
together. Mulder read the long list of Father Michael
Nelson's cleric duties. They included the normal activities
associated with a parish priest. He said Mass, visited the
sick, taught at the Parish School of Religion, helped out
at the local soup kitchen run by Catholic Charities.  All
normal priestly activities, but in addition to all of that,
Father Nelson's included one other job description. It was
the small, tiny notation in the last line of the section of
official duties that held Mulder rapt.  It was a position
that few probably would have taken the time to take note
of, given all of the mundane job descriptions that preceded
it.

Exorcist.  

Father Michael Nelson was on the Church payroll as an
exorcist and had been apparently for the last thirty years.
Mulder suspected business must have been at an all time
high when the Linda Blair movie came out in the 70s,
settled down as soon as the furor of the movie died. He
couldn't believe there was actually an official position
within the Church. He almost laughed.  Almost.

The final puzzle piece was the reverend.  Once again the
profiler did a furious search of the multitude of papers
that lay strewn across the bed.  He picked up the papers he
sought and began to read the notes of the Reverend
Stewart's last sermon.  Though Mulder realized that as an
evangelical preacher, Stewart probably rarely followed his
sermons to the letter, the notes were still a good
indicator of what the man's ideology was.

He read through paragraph after paragraph, wondering if
perhaps he was wrong in his thinking, until he got to the
third paragraph on the fourth page.  

"And I say onto you, Brothers and Sisters, that we have
the power to rid ourselves of sickness, to rid ourselves of
accidents, to rid ourselves of those which we seem to have
little control!  How can we do that, you ask, if we do not
have the control?

"We can, because I know what is in control and I know that
we must be rid of it and I say to you, Brothers and
Sisters, I know HOW to rid ourselves of the evil.  I know
how to give you back the control you so desperately need,
so desperately want.  I know, Brothers and Sisters, who the
evil culprit is that wants to control our lives, and that
evil is none other than Satan himself!  

"How do we obliterate our lives of the malfeasance that
threatens our lives and our children's lives?  And how do
we do this?  We must work together, my brothers and
sisters, to excise the depraved entity that wants to work
its way into our souls.  We must be willing to open our
hearts and our minds to the knowledge that we can exorcise
this demon from our lives and I ask you all for an Amen!

"Amen!

"Amen!

"Amen!"

There was a sudden pounding on the door that shocked
Mulder back into an awareness of his surroundings that was
missing only moments before.

"Mulder!  Open the damn door!  Now!" screamed Kenny,
"Mulder!  Please, open the damn door before I shoot it
open."

It took Mulder several seconds to get his bearings and
then he looked around.  He wasn't in a revival tent; he was
in a motel room.  He wasn't standing amidst hundreds of
people swaying together in an emotional show of support for
their spiritual leader, but rather he was standing beside a
bed strewn with files and reports and notes.  The lamp had
unaccountably fallen from the night stand and now lay in
several pieces at his feet.  For some reason, his throat
felt raw.

He walked haltingly toward the door.  He opened it and
Kenny pushed his way into the room.

"What the hell is going on in here, Mulder?" the young
agent asked angrily.  Mulder almost smiled to himself;
suddenly the kid didn't sound like a kid any longer.  When
Mulder didn't answer, Kenny began a tirade of his own.

"I don't know what the hell you think you're doing by
keeping me out of the loop, Mulder, but it's not going to
work.  It's not going to work, do you hear me?"  Kenny
observed the disheveled appearance of the man whose
reputation he so admired and envied.  Now, Kenny Andrews
wondered how this man, given his current condition, was
going to solve this case, and was he going to allow Kenny
to help him solve it?  

"You doing some redecorating, because I don't think the
Bureau will pick up the tab," he added, pointing to the
broken lamp.  

Mulder stood absolutely silent and still.  Andrews had no
idea if the man had heard anything he'd just said.

"Mulder, what were you doing in here?" he finally asked as
evenly as possible. Andrews realized he had to remain calm
and rational in order to counterbalance Mulder's erratic
behavior if they were to get any further on the case.  He
waited patiently for Mulder to respond.  He'd wait all day
and all night if he had to, when finally Mulder spoke.

"I was looking for links between the victims.  I was
looking for possible connections," he said in an almost
toneless voice.

"It sounded like you were trying to raise the dead in
here, Mulder," Kenny said with a hint of humor.  Mulder
recognized the younger man's efforts to lighten the mood
and smiled slightly.  It appeared to Kenny that Mulder was
finally beginning to relax; of course, the inexperienced
agent knew nothing of Mulder's ability to deflect and
camouflage.  

"I was reading the reverend's last sermon.  Guess I got a
little carried away," he responded, though in reality
Mulder had no memory of reading the sermon aloud.  

"Jeeze, Mulder, you are the master of the understatement,
ya know?"

The agent responded with a wry smile and nodded.  He then
said, "Look, I really am kind of tired.  I think I need to
lay down and sleep a bit, okay?  We'll meet for a late
lunch, early dinner and talk more of my findings."

"But, Mulder--" Andrews tried to contradict, but Mulder
would hear none of it.

"I'm dead on my feet, kid.  A good friend of mine is dead,
and I've got a really strong feeling that we're going to
have a fourth victim real soon if we don't get our acts
together.  I need to sleep.  We'll get something to eat in
a little while."

Of course, if the younger, less experienced agent had the
knowledge and insight that Dana Scully had, or even the
late Tom Alexander had, Kenny Andrews would have known
immediately that something was definitely wrong with that
picture.  Scully would have told Kenny that Mulder never
eats when on a profiling case.  Alexander would have told
the kid that Mulder never sleeps while on one either.  

Mulder was bluffing the kid big time, and the kid fell for
it hook, line, and sinker.  Kenny told him to knock on his
door when he awoke from his nap, to which Mulder replied,
"Will do."

Mulder picked up his pen and began scribbling notes on the
first piece of paper that he could find.  When he ran out
of paper he moved on to the next convenient writing
surface, the wall.  He stood in front of the wall, writing
and writing some more.  His theory was starting to come
together, and his profile took the shape he knew that it
could.  

Mulder identified his one aspect of his theory and listed
every fact he could that supported it.  After each and
every point was bulleted, he then moved on to the profile
itself.  Mulder knew this was the trickier of the two; he
was able to explain with inextricable, but at the same time
indisputable facts, how the three victims were tied
together.  

Mulder also came to the realization it wouldn't matter one
way or the other whether Scully was able to gain permission
to exhume the rabbi's body; it wouldn't give them any more
information than they already had. He wrote as such on the
wall as a reminder to call Scully and tell her as such, so
the rabbi's family wouldn't needlessly be put through that
particular trauma.

The notes consumed him and he wrote continuously on the
wall for the next hour and a half.  Much of what he wrote
was jumbled and chaotic, but given the right interpreter,
the words fit together like the pieces of an intricate
jigsaw puzzle.  The words came out of him as if going
through a sieve; in no particular order but none of the
waste, much like the salted water would cascade through a
colander leaving only the ingredients for a meal offering
sustenance.  

As the weary agent came to his final words of his profile,
Mulder's sense of time and place began to wane. As he lost
track of his surroundings, his mind suddenly focused solely
on one fact.  He inexplicably knew there would be a fourth
victim very soon. And just as suddenly, he knew, without a
doubt, the identity of the killer.  

Without a doubt, Mulder knew where the killing would take
place.

Without a doubt, Mulder knew who was to be killed.

"I have found my new vessel," intoned the agent in a
trance-like voice. "I have found my new bridge to the upper
world who will do the acts that will save my soul. You have
done battle with me in the past, Agent Mulder... but
fighting silly school board members and preachers with a
fetish for snakes were mere skirmishes. Now, you must deal
directly with me.  And this is a war that I will win."

And with that, as if in some kind of hypnotic state, Fox
Mulder picked up his jacket and keys to take off for the
next site of his latest victim.  He would need to arrive as
soon as possible, as he needed to achieve his goal before
the descent of the sun or he might not find the strength to
succeed.  

It was time to deal with a new enemy of Hell. 

"MY enemy," murmured Mulder.

Kenny heard the door slam.  He never hesitated; he simply
picked up his coat, keys, and opened the door.  He saw
Mulder walk to his car and though the younger man called
out to him repeatedly, Mulder never responded.  Kenny ran
to try and get in front of the car and block him, but at
the last second Kenny had to jerk out of the way as Mulder
would have certainly run him over.

Kenny noticed an older couple drive up to the office
entrance of the motel.  He ran to the car, waving his FBI
identification and commandeered their 1993 Ford Taurus.  As
the shocked couple looked on, the agent drove off with a
screech.  He had no idea if what he did was legal or if he
were going to be written up from now till kingdom come. All
he did know was he had to keep his eye on Mulder.

The man was not acting like himself; it was as if he'd
taken on an entirely new persona, and Kenny was scared
shitless that his mentor was going to kill himself because
of it.  He tailed the rental and wondered if Mulder
realized he was being followed.  It seemed impossible to
Kenny that Mulder wouldn't sense it, as Kenny made no
pretensions of trying to conceal himself.  But if he were
aware, Mulder gave no indication.  He drove straight and
true with no attempts made to lose Kenny on the highway.

The younger agent soon realized their destination was the
airport. "Where the hell do you think you're going,
Mulder?" he asked himself.  

Mulder pulled up to the United Airlines terminal and
simply left the car.  When a security officer approached
him, Mulder pulled out his ID badge and wordlessly moved
on.  Kenny hoped that approach would work for him as well.

He stepped out of the car and immediately pulled out his
ID badge, though his fingers weren't nearly as dexterous
as he fumbled with the cover.  "Official business," he said
just loudly enough to be heard, and he continued on his
way.  

The security guard appeared somewhat incredulous and
muttered something about, "Damn bureaucrats," and then made
the decision to move the damn cars himself.

Meanwhile, Mulder walked the path that led him directly to
the ticket agents for departing flights.  Kenny called
after him, but once again, Mulder refused to acknowledge
him.  The younger agent couldn't understand what was going
on. 

When he finally came to Mulder's side, Kenny asked, "What
in the hell is wrong with you?"

Mulder looked at Kenny but said nothing directly to him. 
He simply turned back to the ticket agent and said, "New
York."

"We have a flight that's scheduled to depart shortly and
land in LaGuardia at 4:27 p.m.," the pert young agent
replied.

"Nothing that lands sooner?" Mulder asked.  At the shake
of the young woman's head, Mulder said, "Fine, book it
please."

"And what about me, Agent Mulder, or have you forgotten
that I'm working on this case too?" asked a disgruntled and
confused Agent Andrews.

"Not this time.  You stay here and mop up," was Mulder's
terse reply.

"Like hell!" declared Andrews, and he turned to the agent.
"Book a seat for me too, and put it on his card."  The
ticket agent looked reluctant until Andrews whipped out his
FBI ID again, this time smoothly presenting it, and the
ticket agent seemed convinced.  She issued the ticket and
Kenny quickly walked in pursuit of his obviously ailing
mentor.

The two men displayed their weapons and badges to the
flight attendant at the door and boarded the plane almost
immediately but were not seated together, which didn't seem
to phase Mulder in the least.  He totally ignored Kenny no
matter how many times Kenny tried to get his attention.
Finally, the man seated next to Mulder asked the younger
man politely, but firmly, to kindly let his seatmate alone,
as it was obvious he wasn't in the mood to chat.  "Perhaps
once the plane lands, your partner will be more open to
making up with you," he offered.

Kenny returned to his seat red-faced, as it was obvious
the stranger mistook Kenny's pleas as those of Mulder's gay
lover apologizing over some kind of lover's spat.  He was
too embarrassed to try and talk with Mulder again at that
point, and he also realized the likelihood of Mulder
willingly opening up to him once they landed was
practically nil. Andrews needed backup.

He picked up the telephone that was nestled into the seat
in front of him.  The wonders of modern technology were a
given to this young man, but nevertheless he did appreciate
them.  Andrews placed a phoned call to the only person in a
position of authority that he could think of at that point.

"Hello, I'd like to be connected with Assistant Director
Skinner please. This is Agent Kenneth Andrews calling with
regards to the Biloxi murder case."

When Skinner finally got on the line, Andrews explained as
clearly but as calmly as possible the situation as he now
saw it.  He expected Skinner to be at the very least
surprise, and the very most incredulous over his agent's
behavior, but Walter Skinner seemed neither surprised nor
incredulous.  If anything, he seemed resigned.

Skinner asked what time his plane was scheduled to land
and Kenny told him.  He then informed Kenny that he was
going to catch the next shuttle to New York and that Kenny
was to do whatever was in his power to detain Agent Mulder
at the airport until his arrival.  With a bit of luck,
Skinner shouldn't be too far behind them.  Andrews quickly
agreed and felt grateful to the man who was ready to take
ownership of this new problem. 

Mulder had no overhead luggage, nor did Kenny, so
disembarking was relatively painless.  Kenny continued to
follow the older agent until he saw Mulder approach the
escalator that led upstairs.  

"Mulder, please! Wait for me!" Kenny pleaded.  Now Andrews
knew there was no doubt he felt terrified for his fellow
agent.  Mulder was not acting anything like himself, and he
didn't understand why. All he did know was that he had to
find a way of keeping Mulder at the airport until AD
Skinner arrived. 

"Agent Mulder, I need you to explain what your next step
is," Andrews stated in an attempt to get his companion's
attention.  Mulder, however, simply ignored him and was
about to take a step onto the moving staircase.

"Mulder, you can't leave!  We have to wait here; we need
backup, Mulder! Don't you understand?  We can't do this
alone," Kenny pleaded as he grabbed onto Mulder's arm with
as much strength as he could muster.

Mulder, however, was not to be deterred.  Now having the
strength of twenty men, he easily threw the younger, weaker
man off of him.  He took a quick look around and set his
eyes on a new destination.  He knew the younger man,
determined now, would follow him.

As Mulder turned down a corridor that led to little-used
offices in the terminal, Kenny once again tried to grab him
and hold him still.  

"We've got to wait here, Agent Mulder.  We're getting
reinforcements, but we have to wait here until he comes."

"Until WHO comes?" asked Mulder through clenched teeth.

"The AD  I called the AD from the plane," Kenny
confessed.  The expression Mulder wore upon hearing this
information frightened Kenny. It was almost as if the real
Mulder had reemerged momentarily, and the older agent's
expression showed a fear that Kenny knew exceeded even his
own.

"Walter Skinner?" Mulder rasped.  Kenny nodded his
confirmation. 

"No!" came the dissonant voice so quickly that it startled
Kenny that it caused him to flinch.  Which gave Agent
Mulder just enough time to remove his service revolver from
his holster and promptly fire toward the now shocked Agent
Andrews.

As Kenny Andrews slumped, bleeding to the floor, Fox
Mulder replaced his weapon and headed toward his original
destination.  

He had his next victim to attend to.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To Be Continued in the Season Opener of I Made This!
Productions, Virtual Season 9, coming July 2001

******Click here read the continuation!******