He looked around at the hustle and bustle of a kidnap investigation, and tried not to show his boredom. It was an important case Ė prominent attorney, son of a state senator, grandson of a former major. But why him? There were enough agents here to stuff a mattress.
He wandered through the house getting the feel of it. Good taste, expensive, old antiques Ė probably family items. Huge master suite, what looked like three guestrooms, no childrenís rooms. Yeah, the information heíd been given said no children, but he was married. Where was she? He headed back downstairs. There seemed to be a cluster of people in what was probably referred to as "the library." This family could make a ransom.
There was a woman sitting in the center of the sofa, a redhead. At first his thought was that she was composed, but when she lifted her hand to brush her hair back he saw the hand was trembling.
Before he could move forward to join the group around her he felt a hand on his shoulder. "What are you doing here?"
Mulder turned toward the voice. "I was assigned."
The first agent rolled his eyes and moved away. Mulder made no comment and continued toward the sofa. He rounded the furniture and finally saw the woman. She didnít look up at him but he saw for the first time how lovely she was, even with the red eyes and nose he saw her beauty.
"Spooky?" Mulder suppressed a sigh and turned toward the offending agent. "Weíre pretty sure this isnít an abduction."
"Ha ha." He responded with no amusement. "Want to bring me up to date, Jerry?"
"You taking this one over?" Mulder shrugged and they both stepped away so that the woman on the sofa couldnít hear them. Jerry flipped open his notebook. "Our victim is 48, attorney, married, no kids, great pedigree." His eyebrows rose, "You know who this guy is?"
Mulder nodded so he continued, "He was taken in broad daylight outside of his office, headed toward his car. They were pros; no one can give a clear description of the perps or the car. Apparently they were about as nondescript as you can get.
"Sheís no where near 48." He commented.
"You noticed huh? Yeah, but sheís not just a trophy wife. This oneís got brains; sheís a doctor, MD, over at Georgetown. Nameís Dana Scully."
"She didnít take his name?" He glanced over at the woman again, intrigued now.
"Nope, already had a career when they married. Socially sheís Dana Winthrope, but she introduced herself to us as Scully."
"How long have they been married?"
Jerry glanced at his notes again, "Three years."
"Okay, I need to talk to the witnesses and I want to see the scene. Was anything preserved?"
"Not much. Itís a public street and it was over before a lot of people realized anything was happening."
"Great." He was more disgusted than ever. Why had Skinner wanted him on this case? This wasnít his thing, yeah, like anyone cared. He ran his hand through his hair and looked over at the wife again. She was watching him now. Whatever she was seeing didnít seem to give her much hope. He squared his shoulders and approached her. "Dr. Scully?" That drew a slight smile from her lips but didnít reach her eyes.
"Iím Special Agent Fox Mulder with the FBI. Iíll be handling this case. I want you to try not to worry. Weíll do everything possible to find your husband and bring him home safely."
"Thank you." She said faintly. He liked her voice, even under these circumstances she sounded strong if not completely in control.
"Iím going to keep a couple of agents here at the house with you. Theyíll be here to answer the phone and record any contact we have with the kidnappers. Youíre going to have to trust us to handle this."
She nodded and looked down. He found himself wishing she would look at him again. Dumb Mulder, he glanced around to see if anyone had noticed her affect on him. No, it was okay. He turned and headed for the door, where he gave instructions to the assembled agents and motioned for Jerry to follow him outside.
They headed downtown where Mulder looked over the street and then on up to Stan Winthropeís office. Well, nothing was jumping out at him. The guy was in corporate law, not trial, so he shouldnít have released clients after him, but heíd have Jerry make a note to check anyway. After about twenty minutes in the office he closed the desk drawer in disgust. This guy was boring. What had she seen in him? This just didnít feel right. He shook his head.
"Why this guy Jerry? Heís got money but heís not fabulously wealthy. I want to check the family connections."
"Yeah." And his wife Mulder added to himself. That marriage didnít ring true to him. He had nothing but a feeling to go on, but thatís usually where he started. Heíd give the office a little while longer.
After an hour he called it quits. "Jerry, I need to head back to the house. Maybe weíll find something there."
"Iím surprised the team hasnít called."
"Yeah." Mulder agreed as they moved out. That was strange. Back at the house the team had settled in and were playing cards in the kitchen while waiting for a call.
Mulder found himself looking for the wife as soon as he entered the house. She was still in the library and he wasnít sure she had moved since he left. She seemed to sense his presence and turned to him.
"Iím sorry, Dr. Scully, we havenít learned anything yet."
"Dana, please. Why havenít they called?"
"I donít know. Do you have any family, anyone youíd like to be here with you?"
"My sister is here. Sheís making me some tea." On cue another redhead entered the room carrying a cup of steaming tea. "This is my sister Melissa Scully. Missy, this is Agent Mulder."
"Just Mulder." He nodded to Melissa. Attractive, but not like her sister. He couldnít put his finger on the difference yet, but he would. He turned back to Dana, "Could we talk a minute?"
"Of course. Would you like some tea or coffee?"
"Iím fine." He followed her back into the library and she was faintly surprised to feel his fingers on the small of her back. He seated her and joined her on the sofa. "I know youíve talked to the other agents, but youíve had a little while to think now. Do you know if your husband has any enemies, anyone who would want to do something like this?"
"I canít think of anything or anyone. Iíve tried, but his clients are all corporate, practically financial rather than law, taxes, that kind of thing. His friends are mostly partners in the firm or other attorneys here in town, government people. Oh, he is in a fraternity, I don't know those men."
"What kind of fraternity?"
She smiled slightly, "I donít know, I used to tease him about it. Itís a Ďsecret clubí kind of thing, but the few men I have seen are older gentlemen, very genteel and sophisticated. I imagine them getting together to drink brandy, smoke cigars and discuss world events."
"How often do they get together?"
"Not that often, less than once a month. Though they did meet Monday night. I was a little surprised, it had only been a week or so since the last meeting."
"Do you mind your husband going off with the boys like that?"
"No. He needs his diversions. We live a fairly quiet life. My work schedule can make planning hard."
"No children?" She looked away quickly and he realized his question had caught her off guard and upset her.
"No, we have no children." End of conversation from that tone. What was the problem? "Are you sure you donít want anything Agent Mulder? A sandwich, something?"
Change of subject. Why had that topic shaken her? A lot of people didnít have children. "Have you eaten?"
She shook her head. He stood then and took her hand, "Why donít we both get a bite." Again she noted his hand on her back, heíd already touched her more than her husband usually did, but it was kind of comforting.
Over turkey sandwiches which the stone-faced housekeeper made and he semi-forced her to eat at the dining room table he continued his questioning. "Does your husband keep an office here at home?"
"Yes. The study is his. Stan lived here before we were married, not much has changed."
"Iíve not met your husband, but somehow I donít think he decorated the library."
She smiled a little at that. "No, I did take over the library. I just added a little color and light. It needed it."
"Finish your sandwich, then Iíll go through his office, if you donít mind." After eating he left her with her sister and checked on the team, telling them where heíd be.
After about ten minutes he came out looking for Dana. "Do you have the combination to your husbandís safe?"
"Safe? I . . . I didnít know he had one."
He was watching her now. What kind of marriage was this anyway? "Itís in the floor under his desk. A nice one. I need to get into it, see if thereís anything that could help us."
"Of course. What do we do?"
"Well if youíre agreeable, weíll call a locksmith and open it. If we need to get a warrant Ė "
"No! I canít think that he would have anything in there that . . . I donít understand why I didnít know about it." She was staring at her hands now and looked more lost than ever.
"Youíre exhausted. Why donít you go on to bed? We can handle everything down here. I promise Iíll let you know if thereís any change." She looked up then and after a moment nodded.
"Thank you." It was a whisper.
"Is your sister still here?"
"Yes, sheís already gone up. If you need anything . . . "
"Weíll be fine. Try to rest." Again he touched her back and it took all of her strength not to lean into him. He walked her to the stairs and watched her as she made her way up. She looked tiny against the backdrop of the foyer and staircase. Once she was out of sight he returned to the office. It was beginning to look as though this man had a secret life. Well, that made sense. His public one was boring as hell. Was he cheating on her? Down Mulder, that would be her business, not yours unless it tied into his disappearance.
The locksmith arrived almost immediately; at these rates he was more than happy to take the job. It was taking longer than Mulder wanted it to. This wasnít some simple little safe and he wondered again just what the man was hiding. Rather than hover over the locksmith, Mulder wandered back to the front of the house. Why the hell had no one called with a ransom demand? This was really looking iffy to him.
He looked up startled to see her descending the stairs in her robe. "I couldnít sleep. Will I be in the way down here?"
"Of course not." He walked with her back to the library, obviously her favorite room in the house. She sat in the corner of the sofa and tucked her legs up under her. She looked like a little kid and he wanted to smile, but managed to control it.
They sat in a comfortable silence. He listened in the background for the locksmith. Obviously a tougher job than the guy had imagined. Finally he turned to her, "Do you mind talking?" She shook her head and turned slightly toward him. "How did you two meet?"
"Through a mutual friend."
"Thereís quite an age difference."
She nodded, "Sixteen years. I was just getting out of medical school and his pursuit of me was most appealing."
"Iím sure there were plenty of men pursuing you." She looked up surprised and blushed suddenly. "Sorry. What kind of medicine do you practice?"
"Iím a pathologist."
She chuckled at the look on his face. "You donít lose nearly as many patients that way. Actually I do research and work with the coroner on some cases."
"Wow. You donít look the type."
"Sometimes that helps. The big boys donít expect much, so when I bowl them over it makes an impression." Her face sobered, "Why havenít they called?"
"I donít know. Have you been able to contact his family?"
"Yes, his father and step-mother are in Europe. Theyíre trying to get back now.
"Dr. Scully, may I Ė "
"You may want to rescind that after my next question." He felt her tense slightly, but she didnít turn away.
"Are you in love with your husband?"
"What does that have to do with this investigation?"
"I have to check into everything Dana."
"I care for him and I know he cares for me."
"Thatís not what I asked."
"Ours isnít a marriage based on passion Agent Mulder. You mentioned the age difference yourself. My husband wanted a presentable mate, a good hostess when the occasion called for it, someone he could have a stimulating conversation with. And it was nice that he was also fond of me."
"And youíre willing to settle for that?"
She shrugged, "I suppose I am. I donít know any different."
He knew he had to look horrified. "Why? That has to be your choice Dana."
"I Ė "
"Agent, Iíve got the safe open." Mulder came back to the present with a thud and had a momentary fantasy of putting a bullet in this guyís head. "It was a real bitch. Excuse me maíam." He glanced over at Dana.
Mulder took a steadying breath. "I guess I better check it out."
"May I . . . Iíd be in the way, wouldnít I?"
"No. No, you wouldnít be in the way." But it might be a good thing the subject had been changed. The locksmith headed out and the two of them entered the study.
Mulder donned rubber gloves and opened the safe. He pulled out a large accordion file with a band around it. He opened it and carefully withdrew the contents. There were ledgers, computer reports, assorted papers and two small sealed envelopes.
"Well, have you ever heard of this Gary Harris?"
She shook her head. He reached for the first small envelope. He opened it carefully and after looking at the contents turned it so that she could see it as well. Her gasp was totally spontaneous. Her hand came to her mouth and he saw moisture pool in her eyes. What was going on?
"I donít know, but it looks like your husband had a secret life." He was looking again at the identification documents in his hand. He flipped open the ledger; "It looks like youíre quite wealthy."
"No! Thatís not my money. I donít want it." He glanced back up at her. Her voice was verging on hysteria.
"Iím not trying to get rid of you Dana, but maybe you ought to lie down."
"I donít want to be alone."
"I could get your sister for you." She seemed to shrink in front of him.
"Could I stay here?" She sounded like a little girl. "I wonít bother you, I could sit over there." She pointed to the large leather easy chair near the window.
"Of course." He helped her to the chair. If this was an act she deserved an academy award. She curled up in the chair, looking younger than ever.
He moved back to the desk and began going through the ledger page by page. The man was selling something and it must be valuable. These entries were for hundreds of thousands of dollars. After a while he looked up, she had drifted off in the chair, but it wasnít restful. She was even lovely without makeup and why the hell was he noticing that? She wasnít his type and she was married, maybe not to the worldís best husband, but the one she had chosen.
He forced his eyes back to the ledger. This was fascinating information, so why was he distracted? He shook himself and reached over to warm up the copier. Heíd lost enough evidence in the past to know what he might need and with whom to secure it.
She drew his attention again, and he realized she was crying. A nightmare probably, and no wonder. He rose and moved over to her. "Dana? Dana, wake up." When her eyes opened she was totally disoriented. "Its okay. Itís Mulder. You were having a bad dream."
She knew then where she was. "No worse than reality." She accepted the handkerchief he held out to her. He couldnít disagree.
"Theyíre not going to call are they?"
"Itís too early to say that Dana. You canít give up hope so soon."
She looked away, for the first time he didnít sound sincere. She rose from the chair and he reached out automatically to steady her. What was it that made him want to touch her?
"I guess Iíll go upstairs."
"Dana, are you going to be okay?"
She gave him a sad smile, "I donít know. I donít even know my own husband, or if heís still alive."
"Dana . . . " But she was walking out of the room and didnít look back.
It was for the best, he was letting himself get involved. He wasnít usually stupid, at least not that stupid. He packed up the evidence in the envelope in which he had found it. The copies he made he slipped into his coat pocket. He sealed the study as a crime scene and headed for the kitchen. One agent was asleep at the table; the other was reading beside the equipment.
"Iím going to take some evidence over to the Bureau lab. You have my cell phone, call me if anything changes." The younger man nodded and returned to his book. Mulder let himself out the front door after one last look up the stairs.
The lab was sparsely populated this early in the morning, but Mulder ordered prints and as much analysis as they could get from the envelope. The investigation of the ledger and transactions went to another department.
He left a short report on Skinnerís voice mail then headed to the place where he figured he would find the most help.
He knocked again. "Come on guys. Let me in."
"Jesus, Mulder, do you know what time it is?"
"Yeah. I need you guys to look this stuff over before anything disappears. Iím getting that Ďuh ohí feeling about it." They let him in at that and while they went over the information heíd brought he grabbed a nap on their couch.
"Mulder, wake up." He roused reluctantly. "Here."
He took the coffee Frohike thrust at him. After a couple of sips he looked up at Frohike. "Yeah?"
"What kind of weirdo are we investigating?" Mulderís eyes narrowed. "What the hell is black cancer?"
"Yeah. This guyís selling information about it, and a formula for a vaccine. And some really funky mechanical schematics."
"Vaccine? For cancer?í Byers shrugged. "What else?"
"Lots. Weíre going to be studying this for a while. Heís selling the stuff internationally. Big bucks too. You think he queered a deal and someone decided to get mad?"
"I donít know. Itís not making sense to me yet. I need to get back to the house. Iíll check with you later."
"Hey Mulder, you think your evidence is gonna disappear?" Langly looked up from his computer.
"I can pretty much guarantee it. Be careful." He heard the bolts being thrown even as he walked away from the door. It caused a grim smile to appear on his face.
Back at the house not much had changed. There had been no word from the kidnappers. He found himself looking for her though he had no information he could share. The agents under him gave their reports, which didn't take long. He couldn't stretch it out, so he used that as his excuse to look her up.
She was back in the library and looked smaller than ever. She was dressed and just sitting silently with her sister. When he walked in, the look of hope on her face caused him to falter. "Dana. Melissa." He nodded to her sister, who immediately excused herself.
"Weíre still at a standstill."
She looked away trying to control her tears. After a moment she brushed them away and turned back. "Could you not learn anything from what you found?"
"Not yet. I donít want you to give up hope."
"Hope? I donít even know who he is." Her fingers were knotted together. "Ahab was right."
"Maybe he should be here with you."
She didnít look up; "I havenít seen my father since I married Stan. He couldnít accept . . . " She shook her head and didnít continue.
After a beat he touched her hand. "What about your husbandís parents?"
"They should be here soon." She didnít sound all that pleased, but he made no comment.
"I wish . . . I wish there was something I could do." That earned him a sad smile and he realized he was squeezing her hand. He reluctantly released her and stepped back. "Iíll be in the study with a couple of agents. Weíre not giving up."
"Thanks." She watched him leave the room and realized she felt less safe.Assignment 1 - part 2
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter,10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.