Lives Reclaimed (1/6)



He wasn't asleep when he heard the noise.  It was hard to sleep in this room.  It was too dark and the nightlight was too far away.  The closet door didn't close all the way and the window rattled.  His newest 'mother' had told him it was an old house, and that they would trim back the tree when it was warmer outside, but they always said things like that when he was new.  After a while, they would see how much trouble he was, and they would stop making promises and stop being nice, and then the lady in the beige jacket would come and he'd have to pack again.


But when he heard the noise, he knew.  He knew there wouldn't be time for nice promises or even pancakes for breakfast.  He couldn't say how he knew, but every fiber in his body told him to run, to hide, to stay absolutely quiet, to wait, to watch.


The closet was darker than the room, and it frightened him, but the noise came again so he shoved aside the shoeboxes and old coats and cowered in the far corner.  He left the door open just as much as it had been when he'd been lying in the bed; open just enough so he could see out of the crack.


He closed his eyes and put his head on his drawn up knees.  Slowing his breathing, he chewed on his lip and let his mind wander.


A crash.  Glass breaking, splintering, cascading down like brilliant snowfall.  A scream -- his new mother.  Loud cracking noises and moaning.  Blood, running along the floor.


His new mother, her eyes open but not looking at anything, her arm stretched out toward his new father -- more blood, lots and lots of blood.


He squinted his eyes more tightly shut and tried to think of other things, anything to block the images that flooded his mind.  He thought back, way back, to when he was very, very little.  Rocking back and forth in the far corner of the dark closet, he let the words of an old song flow through him.  Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine . . .




J. Edgar Hoover Building

Deputy Director Walter Skinner's office

10:45 am


"Mulder, I want you to take this case."


"That's why you called me in?  A case?  You sounded like . . . well, you sounded - "


"The case is in Wyoming.  It's a murder, with one witness."


"Wyoming?  You know I don't usually go that far from home.  I don't know if Scully - "


"A seven-year old boy."


"Shit."  Mulder sank into the familiar chair in front of Skinner's desk.  Scully wasn't beside him, so it didn't feel right, but he needed to hear the rest of this.  Skinner knew him too well.


"Was he hurt?"


Skinner looked down at the file and didn't answer.


"He was," Mulder answered himself.


"No, not physically.  But the boy's not . . . he's a foster child, been bounced around a lot."  He looked at the file again.  "He's non-communicative since the incident."




"Probably.  It hasn't helped that the kid has had so many 'homes.'  The lack of stability has, I'm sure, made his condition worse."


"I've never practiced psychology.  You're going to need Scully on this one."


Skinner nodded.  "Here's what I have on the boy, it's not much.  His name is Eddie Vender.  This was his fourth foster home in six months."


"Great, no trust issues there," Mulder muttered and Skinner nodded again.


"This boy, there's been a history.  The local police say that he's been a witness to other attacks."


Mulder looked up stunned.  "They can't think . . . " he sputtered.


Skinner held up his hand.  "No one is accusing the child, Mulder.  He's only seven-years old.  But it seems that there is more to this story and only the child can tell us that."


"No wonder he's not communicative," Mulder said with a deep sigh.  "I still don't know how I can help."


"I've seen you with kids, Mulder.  You're a natural.  And we're at our wit's end."


"Please don't tell me I'm his only hope -- I hate it when you do that, Walter," Mulder replied with a smirk.


"No, I'm certain you're not Obi Wan.  But we do need you on this."


"Fine.  I'll go," he sighed.


"Good.  Kim has your plane ticket, you leave tomorrow morning."


"You knew I'd take this?" Mulder commented.


"Yes, Mulder, maybe I'm just getting psychic in my old age," Skinner deadpanned and both men shared a chuckle.  "Give my best to Scully.  How's she doing?"


"Busy, since she's being asked to consult on a lot of Sandoff's cases.  They're after her to write an article for the Journal of the American Medical Association."


"Wow.  Well, can't say I'm surprised," Skinner said with a proud smile.  "Anyway, see Kim on your way out.  You'll be working with an old friend of mine, Agent Jerry Welch.  He's the ASAC on this.  He'll meet you at the airport.


Mulder and Scully residence

outside Richmond, VA

4:30 pm


She reached for the door and was startled to find it locked.  Instead of knocking, she slipped her key into the slot and let herself in.  It was quiet, too quiet.  Where was Mulder?  He usually ran in the mornings.  She looked toward his office and spotted his running shoes in the middle of the floor, in front of his chair.  Okay, that wasn't right.


"Mulder?"  she called just to be sure he wasn't upstairs.  Would he have taken a nap?  There was no response so, uneasy now, she began looking around.  There was no sign of a struggle, there was also nothing laid out to thaw for dinner.  If he had left on his own, surely he would have left a note.  Scully retraced her steps, knowing she would have noticed a note, but looking anyway.


She was returning downstairs when she heard the car in the driveway and hurried to the front door.  Mulder was emerging from what was obviously an FBI fleet car.


He waved the driver off, then looked up and smiled.  He saw the fear in her eyes and hurried up the stairs with a paper bag in his hand.




"I, I didn't know where you were."  It sounded weak to her ears, but it was out there now.


"I'm sorry.  I thought I'd beat you home.  Apparently this call didn't rate a helicopter, and it's a long drive."


"You've been to DC?"  She finally faced him, to find him watching her closely.


"Uh, yeah.  Skinner called, and I made the driver stop by Wang's since you can't get decent Chinese takeout out here."  He indicated the bag in his hand.  She still didn't smile.


"What did he want?"  She wanted to kick herself.  She sounded feeble, like one of those clingy women she couldn't stand.


"He uh, yeah, there's a case.  Look, why don't we eat and talk about it after.  You don't want Wang's to get cold."


She turned away, allowing him to stall for a little while.  Skinner had called him, and Mulder had hurried to meet him. 


It seemed like just days ago when she would call, just to check in, at least once a day.  Now with so many requests for consults, she hadn't even realized she had allowed that to drop.  He had been called to DC, gone and come back and she hadn't even realized it.


Mulder dished up the Chinese food that had been such a staple in his, and then their lives at one time, and set the plate before her with a flourish.  "Look, it can be eaten off of a plate too."  He was teasing her, trying to help.


She attempted a smile and he sank into his chair, next to her.  "Scully, I'm sorry.  I should have called and let you know what was going on, but I knew how busy you were going to be today and I really did think - "


"Mulder, you're not my prisoner.  I know that now you can move around more, do things you've been wanting to for ages."


"Not without you."


"I can't go off on a case right now."


"No, I understand that, but that doesn't mean I won't need to consult you," he grinned, "probably at least twice an hour."


She huffed at that and finally picked up her fork. 


He allowed her several bites, taking a few himself before he continued.  "Want to hear about it?"


"Of course I do."


Mulder took her hand and squeezed it.  "It's a murder, I don't have all the details on why the FBI's in on it.  Anyway, there's a witness, a seven-year old boy.  I'm picking up vibes from Walter that he might be more than a witness.  Things have happened around the kid before.  He's a foster kid, moved around a lot and stuff seems to follow him."


"A seven-year old that's been moved a lot?  Do you know why?"


Mulder shook his head, his mouth full of moo-shu pork.


"Where is this?"


"Oh, Wyoming."  Her eyes widened.  "Yeah, that's the downside.  I'm to report to Jerry Welch.  You know him?  He's the ASAC on this."


"I'm not sure; I think I've heard the name."


"He's a friend of Walter's.  I have to leave first thing in the morning.  Remember how much Kim loves those morning flights?"


Scully did chuckle then.  "I suppose you need a ride to the airport."


"I'm more in need a really good night's . . . uh sleep.  Since we're going to have to get up so early, we really need to get to bed pretty soon."


She cut her eyes at him and very slowly picked up her fork and resumed eating managing to hide her smile, at least from her lips.




She didn't sleep well that night, despite the exercise they had indulged in prior to drifting off.  Her dreams were unremembered, but she knew vaguely that they had something to do with Mulder being away.  She refused to dwell on that, it was a case, not even an X-File, and Walter was sending him to work with someone he trusted.  The feeling of, not impending doom, but something was tugging at her.


No way would she let Mulder see that, especially after the way she had acted last night.  Besides Mulder was so excited about another case . . .




Natrona Co. International Airport

Casper, WY

9:55 am


Mulder looked up when he heard his name called.  The man coming toward him was just an inch or two shorter than Mulder, and right at the same age.  He was sandy haired, in regulation cut, but the gray suit and dark glasses were a dead giveaway to his occupation.  On second look, Mulder realized he looked vaguely familiar.


"Fox Mulder," the man called again, extending his hand.


"Agent Welch, nice to meet you," Mulder replied, shaking hands with the man.  When Mulder gave him a curious look, Welch smiled.


"You know me, but you can't place me," he said with a grin.


"Something like that," Mulder agreed.


"You were profiling at the time.  Came out here with Bill Patterson back in '90.  Anthony Lee Prescott -- ring any bells?"


Mulder's eyes lit up.  "Oh man, how could I forget," he said, shaking his head.  "But, well, some of that time is still pretty shaky," he admitted.


Welch grew serious and nodded.  "You were pretty sick.  I was in on the capture, but you were already in the hospital at the time.  Double pneumonia, right?"


Mulder nodded.  "Yeah.  I just remember seeing Prescott's car in my dreams -- after that, nothing till they were hauling me off the airplane at Dulles."


"Well, I was mightily impressed with your work, Agent, er, sorry, Fox."


"Mulder's fine, if you don't mind.  Avoids all those unfortunate 'agent' mistakes," Mulder corrected with a smile.


Welch shrugged.  "Fine by me.  The car's just outside.  The crime scene is about an hour's drive, if you want to head out there."


"Sounds like a plan," Mulder concurred and hefted the strap to his suitcase onto his shoulder.


Outside it was cool, but spring was in the air.  The mountain range to the south was still snowcapped, but along the roadside, there was the gentle hint of green.  While they drove, Mulder flipped through the file.


"This one has us baffled.  The local law almost quit over this.  There hasn't been a murder in Glenrock for over ten years and to have a double murder like this -- it's just unheard of."


"Why did they bring us in -- besides being out of their league?" Mulder asked.


"We've been following this case for a while," Welch said.


"This perpetrator's hit before?" Mulder asked, looking over at Welch.


Welch drew in a deep breath.  "We have reason to believe that three other cases are related."


"All in Wyoming?  Do you have those files?"


"My briefcase, back seat.  Files are in the front pocket."


Mulder twisted around and found the other file folders.  He opened them one by one, scanning the contents quickly and then flipping back and forth between them.  When he realized what he was seeing, he looked over at Welch.  "The connection, aside from method of operation, is the boy."


Welch nodded. 


"You think the boy is involved?"


The other man sighed.  "We can't figure it out.  If it's an attack on the boy, he's never been touched.  In fact, he's usually the one to call 911.  If he's the perpetrator -- "


"He's only 7," Mulder countered.


"Not quite 7, actually.  His birthday, from what we can find, is sometime in May."


"From what you can find?  Aren't his records available?"


"There's some confusion.  We have the records from the last four foster homes, but his birth records are . . . I don't know.  They say they were lost or destroyed or something.  No one seems to want to own up to what actually happened.  We just know he entered the foster system four years ago and he's been placed with five different families.  Four of those families were murdered while the kid was present in the house.  You do the math."


"You aren't suggesting -- " Mulder objected, echoing his words with Skinner.


"Mulder, no, I'm not suggesting anything.  We have no idea what has happened here, but we do know that where this kid goes, trouble follows.  Maybe he's attracted the wrong attention, maybe it's some kind of freak coincidence -- "


"If it's a coincidence why does it feel so contrived," the former agent muttered, shaking his head.


"We just don't know.  And when I called DC, Walt said that you'd resurfaced and were consulting, so I jumped at the chance.  Spooky stuff, Mulder.  It used to be your middle name," Welch smirked.


"First name, actually," Mulder replied with a sigh, flipping back and forth in the folder.  Finally, after he'd read all there was, he closed all four folders and just stared out the window at the pleasant afternoon.




"Are you saying some serial killer is following a little boy, but not hurting him, just killing everyone around him?" Scully sounded skeptical.


"Yeah.  Makes no sense, right?"


"Have you talked to him?"


"Not yet.  The county has him again and are 'protecting' him, finally.  I think even they've finally noticed something."


"Why are you angry at the county?"


"Scully, this kid is not yet seven years old!  They don't even know his birthday for sure, because they can't find his original paper work.  Protecting this kid is the last thing they've been doing.  And now he may be being stalked for who the hell knows why."


"You can help him, Mulder.  Come on after all these years, I know as soon as you meet him you'll get some sort of 'feeling' and - "


"I know Welch."


"Excuse me?" she questioned, caught off guard by the change in subject.


"Welch, the ASAC.  We met when I was profiling for Patterson.  He reminded me of my 'spooky' reputation."


She was silent, absorbing that.  Finally, "Are you okay?"


"I miss you."


"Are you going to be able to work with him?"


"Yeah.   He's not one of those.  He remembers my work fondly."


"Oh, do I need to come defend my territory?"


For the first time Mulder chuckled.  "I think I can hold him off, but I do wish I had my teddy to cuddle with tonight."


"Teddy bear?"


"No, that blue teddy that you - "  He stopped at her snort. "I need to get moving.  We just stopped to drop off my bag.  I'm gonna call you after I talk to the kid.  Maybe I will get some sort of 'feeling' and you can interpret it for me."


"Hurry home.  It's lonely back here."


She hung up and turned back to her desk.  She was already dreading the empty house tonight.  At least this Welch guy didn't sound hostile. 


So why was she having a bad feeling about the case.  She shoved that aside and picked up Timothy's chart.  It was just that they were separated.  That didn't happen anymore and she didn't like it.




Quinlins' Residence

3 miles west of Glenrock


The road was just gravel and wound around a hill before opening up to a farmhouse nestled in a copse of aspen trees.  A small creek meandered just a few yards from the wraparound front porch. A well-worn porch swing swayed in the gentle breeze.  The only image to disturb the rustic peace was the yellow crime scene tape making an x across the front door frame.


Welch pulled the black Taurus up to the front walk and Mulder put on his sunglasses to abate the onslaught of the bright afternoon sun.  It was warm in the sun and the breeze was sweet with the smell of moist loam.  A manicured flower garden along the walk was displaying the first shoots among the brown of last fall's decaying leaves.


Mulder steeled himself for a moment before entering.  Even after the cases he'd been consulting on, even after finding disembodied heads and severed limbs in a frozen West Virginia river, he still felt out of place.  Six years and almost two before that since he'd witnessed man's inhumanity and delved into the motives 24/7 and Mulder had come to a conclusion -- maybe you couldn't go home again.  At least not without causing some damage along the way. 


Not that he could ever tell Scully.  She still tread softly around him when he was in the office with a case file.  He did his best not to bring the cases out of the office and into the rest of the house.  He'd promised her to keep the darkness at bay and she's promised to be there with him, in their home.  It was a truce, and he understood why she felt as she did, but he still felt her absence from his side like a phantom limb.  He ached to pull out his cell phone and call her, but Welch had already entered the front room and Mulder pushed past his weakness and followed the agent into the house.


It was a nice house, a family house.  The walls were clean, the furniture bright and cheery.  The fireplace was obviously more than just for show as a stack of firewood sat neatly beside it.  Mulder could almost picture where they probably put up the Christmas tree each year so that the tree and fireplace would be in all the pictures.  After getting a good look around the living room, the two walked through the entire bottom story, looking in the dining room, kitchen and family room with a big box of toys sitting next to the television and a shelf of kid friendly videos within easy reach.  Mulder also noticed a shelf of books on a bookcase with titles he remembered from his own childhood.  These people were prepared to have a young child in their home.  It made Mulder relieved and yet saddened him at the same time.


"They were killed in the bedroom.  It's upstairs," Welch told him as he made his way back to the staircase in the front of the house leading to the second story.


Mulder nodded and followed up the steps.  Upstairs the walls were smudged with fingerprint powder and the smell brought back many memories.  One memory was so strong that Mulder stooped for a moment to check out the heat register to see if the screws where painted shut.  Welch gave him a perplexed look and jerked his head toward one of the bedrooms.  "They were found in here."


Mulder drew in a deep breath, and moved into the room.  He had to bite his upper lip to keep from wincing.  The room was a carnage of blood stains and fingerprint powder.  Blood spattered two of the walls and there was some of it dotting the ceiling.  The sheets on the bed were missing, probably being analyzed for trace evidence, but the blood had soaked down to the mattress.


"As you could see from the photos, they were pretty much shredded," Welch said, breaking the silence that had descended between them.


"Has the ME found defensive wounds?" Mulder asked.  The autopsy was missing from the file he had, so he assumed it hadn't been completed.


"Yes, I talked to him this morning before I picked you up at the airport.  Defensive wounds on the husband, none on the wife.  ME thinks he slit her throat first and that woke up the husband, but he didn't stand a chance.  There's been two sets of prints found that don't belong to the husband, wife or the little boy.  They were being run through the database this morning; we should have something back this afternoon."


Mulder was listening, as he took in the scene, looking at the angles, the footprints in the blood.  Some, he knew were from the police who had responded to the 911 call from the boy.  The others, he knew, were from the killers. 


"Where was the boy?" Mulder asked suddenly.


"That's the spooky part.  He was right next door," Welch said, taking Mulder into the next room.


"There," Welch pointed to a slatted wooden door along the wall.  "Kid hid in the closet."


Mulder walked over and opened the door.  The closet was as neat as the rest of the house.  A few shoeboxes were scattered on the floor, spilling out new sneakers, new leather loafers -- all the same size.  The clothes hanging on the rod were a whole year's worth of clothes for a child; some of the larger sizes still had the tags on.  The corner of the closet had been swept clear.  Mulder could picture the small boy tucked in on himself in the corner, terrified.  He sucked in a breath and shook his head.


"The kid heard everything," Mulder said quietly.  "This wall is shared with the parent's bedroom.  He would have heard all of it."


"That's sort of what we figured.  And it's probably why he won't talk to anybody," Welch agreed.


Mulder backed out of the closet and looked around the room.  It was decorated with a space theme, stars and planets were painted on the ceiling with pictures of rocket ships on the walls.  Even the bed had a space theme, the comforter dark blue with the constellations printed on it. 


"How soon can I speak with the boy?" Mulder asked, taking one last look around.


"He's at Child Services in Casper.  The county sheriff has him under guard.  They said they'd prefer we come over tomorrow morning rather than tonight.  The kid's doctor has him on a mild sedative so he's sleeping pretty much all day."


Mulder sighed.  "That'll have to do, I guess," he replied.  "Are you working out of your hotel, or the police station?" he asked.  Mulder knew the FBI didn't have a regional office in Wyoming -- Denver handled the state.


"The sheriff's office, in Casper.  They've been good to us.  We can stop in there and then I'll get you settled at the motel."


Mulder nodded and followed Welch out of the house.




She was getting ready for bed when the phone rang again.  "Mulder?"


"Predictable, aren't I?"


"Just hoping.  You don't sound so good."


"I've just come from the house.  God, Scully.  It was carnage and the boy . . . "




"He was hiding in the closet in the next room.  There was one inside wall between what happened to these people and him.  He had to have heard everything.  The room looks like a slaughter house.  I'd forgotten what this kind of work was like."


She wanted to touch him.  "You haven't seen him yet?"


"No.  They wanted us to wait until morning.  That's probably a good idea for him, though if he's sleeping, he's got a stronger constitution than I do.  It's not the first time.   This boy . . . Scully, I don't know how I'm going to talk to him."


"Mulder, you can do this.  Are, are you going to be taking him into protective custody?"




"Well, if he is the target or part of the target, you can't leave him out there in Wyoming.  Child Protective Services certainly isn't equipped to handle something like this.  He, he might even make the other children targets."




"It sounds like he needs to be in a safe house, with trained guards."  There was silence on the other end.  "Mulder?"


"Yeah, I'm thinking."


"Now I'm worried," she teased.


"What are you wearing?"


"I'm hanging up."


"I love you."


"I love you, too.  Hurry home, Mulder."  She broke the connection, he never said goodbye and when they were apart, seemed to have trouble actually hanging up.  She understood.




Ramada Inn Express

Casper, WY

8:05 am


Mulder was pacing the lobby when he finally saw Welch's car pull into the drive.  He hurried out the double doors, jumping in the front seat.


"Well, I guess I don't have to ask if you're ready," Welch joked and handed Mulder a cup of Starbucks.   


"I was born ready," Mulder quipped back, taking a moment to add cream and sweetener out of the bag on the dash before sipping the elixir.  If Scully had been there, she would have pulled him aside and asked him if he was okay again.  He wasn't okay, not by a long shot, but he couldn't tell Welch.  "What did Child Services say?"


"They have him at a shelter.  They've had a psychiatrist working with him since the night of the murders but so far she hasn't gotten very far."


"She ordered the sedation?"


Welch nodded, taking a sip of his own cup.  "Yeah.  He gets -- well, they call them 'meltdowns'.  He screams, throws a hissy fit, is pretty much uncontrollable."


"Was he like that before?" Mulder asked.


"Before what?  The first time the family he was placed with was attacked, the kid was four.  Pretty hard to pinpoint a catalyst when you're only talking 6 plus years of existence."


Mulder squirmed a bit in his seat at that.  It was going to be a problem, that was for certain -- how was he supposed to approach a child that was not only uncommunicative but possibly violent?  It had been a long time since his child psych courses at Oxford.


"At the same time, the kid can be reached," Welch assured him.  "I mean, he called 911.  We have the tape; I can let you hear it.  He's completely lucid in his request for immediate assistance.  He was clear and not hysterical.  Scared, yes, but for a six year old who just heard his caregivers murdered in the room next door -- the kid was downright spooky."  As if he'd just heard himself, Welch jerked his attention over to Mulder.  "Sorry, Mulder.  Didn't mean to -- "


"No, that's okay.  No offense taken," Mulder told him.


They arrived at the shelter in just under ten minutes and Welch parked the car.  When they entered the building, Mulder took a minute to look around.  It looked like a cross between an elementary school and halfway house.  The walls were brightly colored and all the picture frames held works by very young artists.  He could hear some shouts and laughter coming from the end of the hall.


"Agent Welch, nice to see you again," said a woman in a blue smock.  "And you must be Agent Mulder."


"Mr. Mulder, actually," the former agent corrected, as he shook the woman's hand.


"I'm Nancy Widman, Eddie's case worker.  We can speak in my office before I take you down to see Eddie."


They followed Nancy down the hall to a door with an Easter Bunny taped to it.  "I have Eddie's file for you."


"I thought there wasn't a file," Mulder said, looking over at Welch, who just shrugged.


"Well, I use the word 'file' loosely.  It's what we've had from the last three years, when he entered the system.  Before that, we have nothing but the report from the intake case worker.  You're welcome to read through it while I'm getting Eddie ready to meet you."  She handed Mulder a folder consisting of no more than ten typed pages.


Mulder sat down in one of the visitor's chairs and started reading.  Eddie had come into the system when his father was sent to prison for drunk driving and vehicular homicide.  At the time, the father said he 'wanted nothing to do with the demon brat' and relinquished his parental rights to the child, effectively setting him on a road to foster care limbo.


The mother had died in an auto accident shortly before the father had begun deteriorating.  He had blamed the boy, though there was no evidence.  In fact there was no reason for the accident.  Dry road, good weather, no other car involved that they could find, just the car plowed into a tree.  The boy hadn't had a scratch, she was dead.


When not traumatized by events, Eddie did exhibit communication skills and a vocabulary much higher than grade level, which led one psychologist to classify him as Aspergers Syndrome as opposed to infantile autism.  His main interest in life was space, and he could recite all the constellations in the night sky in any season.  However, as with most Aspergers children, he was not up to grade level in many other subjects outside of science, mainly astronomy and math.  His reading level was hard to determine because he simply refused to answer any questions on written material, but exhibited comprehension beyond grade level that was difficult to quantify.


Mulder licked his lip and glanced over at Welch.  Maybe this wasn't the best idea after all.  He felt totally out of his depth and he knew that this child's life was at stake, not to mention any future caregivers.  He was about to confess his inadequacy when Nancy returned.


"We're ready for you, Mr. Mulder," she said with a hopeful expression.  Shaking off his fears, Mulder followed her down the hall.


The room was a play area, filled with bean bag chairs, low tables with equally small chairs and all around the walls were tubs of toys and shelves of children's books.  In the far corner at one of the low tables sat the only occupant of the room.  The boy sat hunched over a jig saw puzzle and didn't look up even when Nancy called his name.


"Eddie, this is Mr. Mulder.  He'd like to talk to you.  Is that all right?" she asked, touching the boy's shoulder.  The only response the boy gave was to move his body over so that her hand was no longer in contact.  "Do you want me to stay?" she asked, chewing her lip.


"I think we'll be fine," Mulder assured her, even though his confidence was a front.  He glanced over to see that indeed, there was a large mirror set into the wall and Nancy nodded.  Mulder and the boy's conversation would be on full display in the observation room next door.


Nancy left and Mulder pulled up one of the tiny plastic and steel chairs, perching on the too small seat.  "Nice puzzle," he commented, but didn't really expect a reply.  The puzzle was circular and was the star map of the northern hemisphere, from what Mulder could determine.  It seemed pretty advanced for a six year old.  Mulder looked down at the discard pieces and found one that might fit. 


"Here, Orion's belt," he said, moving to slip the piece into the correct location.  As he did so, the boy reached out to stop him, grasping his hand.


"I'll do it," Eddie said, taking the piece from Mulder's fingers and putting the piece down.


The contact was almost like an electric shock.  Mulder was instantly assaulted by a strong, unpleasant hum and pain in his head. His vision grayed for a moment and he grabbed the table to keep upright.  After a moment, the hum lessened but the pain only came down a notch or so.  Mulder swallowed against the bile in his throat.


"You'll get used to it," Eddie said, not looking up from the puzzle.


Mulder stared at the boy.  Hesitantly, he reached out and allowed his fingers to brush the child's hand.  The hum increased and the pain went from uncomfortable to blinding.  Eddie reached over and took Mulder's hand off his, placing his hand on the table.  He went back to his puzzle as if nothing untoward had happened.


"Eddie -- what just happened?" Mulder whispered, trying to catch his breath.


The boy looked up and for the first time, met Mulder's eyes.  The former agent gasped when he saw the deep blue orbs.  "It'll get better.  You get used to it," he repeated.


"Do you hear that?" Mulder asked, hoping he could continue the conversation now that he'd established a link.


"Only with you.  But it's OK, I remember it.  From a long time ago."  He smiled and dropped his eyes to the puzzle.  "What's my name?" he asked.


"Your name is Eddie Vender," Mulder replied.


"No, it's not.  They call me that, but that's not my name."


"Why do you think I'd know your name?" Mulder asked, confused.


"You're the only person I can feel," Eddie replied, quickly finishing the puzzle.  "You should sleep.  You're really tired and you're scared.  I'll see you tomorrow."  He got up from the table and went over to the boxes of toys, pulling out a bucket of Lego blocks and proceeded to play with them.


"Eddie, what happened?  What do you mean, you remember it?  Eddie, we have to talk," Mulder tried, but the boy was absorbed in his play and wouldn't acknowledge him again.


Suddenly, Mulder felt the undeniable need to sleep.  If he didn't get out of that room, he was very likely to curl up on the play mat and take a nap.  He stumbled to the door and was met by Welch.


"Mulder, c'mon, let's get you to a doctor.  What was that?  You seemed to have some kind of attack.  Was it the kid?" Welch bombarded him with questions while Nancy stood by white faced and clutching her hands. 


"I'm so sorry, Mr. Mulder.  Nothing like this has ever happened," she was explaining.


"Just get me back to my room," Mulder whispered to Welch.  "I don't need a doctor, I just need to lie down."


Welch appeared unconvinced, but finally nodded.  "OK, but I'm not leaving till I know you're all right," he informed Mulder.




Ramada Inn Express

Casper, WY

2:05 pm


Welch was supporting Mulder by the time they got to the room.  He seated him on the side of the bed and Mulder toed off his shoes.  He had barely reclined when his cell phone rang. 


"Want me to get that for you?"


"What? Yeah?"


Welch pulled his phone from the coat pocket and brought it to his own ear.  "Hello?"


"Who is this?" Scully demanded.


"Agent Welch.  Are you calling for Mulder?"


"What's wrong?"


"Is this Dr. Scully?"


"Yes.  What's going on?"


"Hold on."  He covered the receiver.  "Mulder?  Can you hear me?  It's Scully on the phone."


Eyes closed, he reached for the phone and brought it to his ear.  "Scully?"


"What's wrong?  Mulder, talk to me."


"I don't know.  I have to sleep.  I'm 'kay, jus' tired."  He handed the phone back to Welch.


"Dr. Scully, it's Agent Welch.  He says he's just tired."


"What happened?"


"I'm not sure.  He was meeting with our witness - "


"The boy?" she interrupted.


"Yeah.  He was alone in the room and, and it looked like he had some sort of attack."


He couldn't see it, but she nodded.  She'd known something was wrong.  "What did it look like?"


Welch described what he had seen.  She was silent for a moment.  "He wouldn't let me take him to the ER.  He just wanted to come here and sleep.  Do you want me to call an ambulance?"


"Is he asleep now?"


Welch observed the man for a moment.  "Yeah, he is.  Look, I can hang out here, make sure - "


"I'd appreciate it, for a little while at least.  I want you to call me back immediately when he wakes.  I need to talk to him."


"You got it."


"You'll call me?"


"Promise.  Look, it's probably not as bad as I've made it sound.  It was just so, so sudden.  I mean everything was fine and then he shakes hands with this boy.  It was kinda . . . spooky."


"Call me."  She hung up then and saw that her hands were shaking.  Something had made her leave a patient and call Mulder.  What the hell was going on?