They were stopping and she heard him leave the car. She was confused; she had no idea where they were. He had her by the arm again. When she stumbled against him he froze and shoved her away, then caught her before she could go down.
He didn’t speak but was breathing heavily. They were inside now and moving downstairs. She heard a door close behind them and then the mask was pulled gently from her face. An empty room, no windows, probably 10 X 12. It smelled of disinfectant and cleaning supplies.
"Where are we?"
He ignored her and walked to a second door in the room, one she hadn’t noticed, almost opposite where they had entered. It was hidden – as though he’d cut the door out of the wall and made sure it wouldn’t be noticed. Her fear threatened to overtake her. "You’ll want to see this." He opened the door and held it for her.
She didn’t move. "I want to go home."
"You’ll feel better after you see this." He motioned for her to come over again.
Well, she didn’t have a lot of choices and she wanted to keep him from becoming upset. She cautiously approached the door wishing her hands were free. She froze in the doorway. This was impossible. She turned, taking in more of the room. Her face looked back at her from every surface. Scully finally turned to look at him. "What’s going on?"
"Don’t you like it? You’re so beautiful, I started collecting your pictures and just couldn’t stop. This was my first picture." He picked up a framed photograph from a newspaper. When she didn’t move to see it he approached her.
She didn’t even try to read the cut line. It was a picture of she and Mulder leaving what looked like a courthouse. It was an invasion of privacy, but what disturbed her most was the way Mulder’s face had been obliterated from the photo. That caused her to look up at the pictures surrounding her again. He’d been ripped out or savagely scratched out of every picture he’d been in. The newer pictures didn’t include him and had been taken recently, probably by the man in front of her. So this is why she’d felt so watched at her apartment.
"Why are you doing this?"
"You’re a very special woman Dana."
"You were in my apartment." She stated it as fact.
"I thought you might want some familiar things around you when you came here." He gestured toward the table. The things missing from her apartment were there, even some things she hadn’t missed. Her comb, the dressy earrings her mother had given her for Christmas, a spoon, no fork or knife, and a jar that she was sure contained her bath oil. Son of a bitch.
"Don’t you like it?"
Listen," she hesitated, "What should I call you?" He wasn’t hiding his face from her any longer. He didn’t expect her to ever leave.
"Harold, this has gone far enough. I want to go home now."
"Nice ladies don’t spend the night in a man’s apartment."
She froze, keep steady Dana, he sounded rational so far. "What are you talking about Harold?" Keep using his name, keep a connection.
"I trusted you. Even though you went out of town with him. You always got separate rooms. But last night – "
"I was afraid Harold. I knew someone had been in my apartment and it made me uneasy. I didn’t know it was you. Mulder offered to let me stay over because he’s my friend and he was concerned about me."
"He’s a man and you’re a woman."
"Yes Harold, but we’re also friends. We’re not a couple, not like you’re thinking."
"Sure you are. He never goes out with other women. Never, and he looks at you. I see him when he brings you home or comes over to work. He can’t wait to get to you. It’s like he’s sniffing at you. And he’s always touching you. But you don’t even seem to mind when he puts his hands on you." He was becoming agitated.
"Harold don’t be angry with Mulder, please. I don’t feel disrespected by him. I’m sure he – "
"He wants you. He wants to rub his hands on you, his lips – "
"Harold, please calm down."
"Calm down? You let him! You want him too! You watch him; I’ve seen you look at his body. A lady wouldn’t do that." Without warning he backhanded her. Her hands were still bound by the handcuffs so she wasn’t able to keep her balance and fell back, landing on the cot.
"Harold, please." If he lost it completely she was going to die. She had to calm him down, make him talk to her again.
"No! I thought you were the one. I thought you were a lady, but after last night I know. You’re just a whore like all the others. I tried to save you, I really tried, but you’re just like the others. You don’t deserve to live."
"What others Harold?" She’d managed to get her breath back and wipe the blood from her mouth. She had never seen this man before, but she believed him.
Skinner arrived shortly after the police and the sight of the room stopped him in his tracks too. After a moment he looked around for Mulder. He spotted him at the entrance to her bedroom and made his way over there.
"What’s going on." He spoke low, looking around again at the destruction.
"Someone took her. Someone’s been in and out of her apartment for days playing games with her mind. She didn’t know what was happening."
"Neither of you came in today."
"We were at her oncologist’s." Skinner’s head jerked up. "She’d thought the cancer was back and affecting her mind. It’s not. There’s no evidence that the cancer has returned."
"So there’s some good news." Mulder nodded absently. "Who did this?"
"I don’t know." Skinner followed him into the bedroom and stopped short. "Yeah, he didn't touch the bedroom or the bath."
"He?" Mulder shook his head and tried to walk away. Skinner grabbed his arm and stopped him. "Focus Mulder. Slip that brilliant mind of yours into gear. Tell me your theory, why didn’t he bother these two rooms."
Mulder hesitated for a second. "It’s not sexual. He didn’t invade her secret space." He looked up into Skinner’s eyes. "He’s not going to rape her. To him she’s pure, untouched." His eyes widened. "He overheard us. When I dropped her off, I said . . . "
"She stayed at my place last night. She was upset, scared. She fell asleep on my couch and I let her stay." Skinner’s eyes had narrowed. "I talked her into moving to the bed and I slept on the couch. When I brought her home I made some dumb comment that he must have heard."
"Uh, something stupid." Skinner’s look was unforgiving. "That she was always welcome to grace my bed." Skinner sighed. Mulder looked away for an instant then got back to business. "The super’s on the way up. He has a key to this place. Whoever’s been doing this has access. She doesn’t leave her keys lying around, neither do I."
Skinner looked up, questioning.
"I have a key to the apartment. The only other one." Skinner decided to make no comment. It wouldn’t help the situation anyway. They both turned as a large man was escorted into the room.
"Are you Stanley Mason?"
"Stan, yeah. What’s going on here?" His eyes surveyed the ruined room.
"We need to know who has access to this apartment."
"Well, I do, but you don’t think that I – "
"You’re not under suspicion at this time, but we need information and we need it in a hurry."
"Oh geez, Ms. Scully wasn’t here when . . . oh geez." He ran his hand through the salt and pepper hair.
"You know Scully?"
"Yeah, she’s one of my best tenants. Rent on time, quiet, she’s gone a lot you know. I hold her mail for her sometimes. She’s a real class act." Mulder nodded, that was certainly true.
"Someone’s been getting in here, taking little things, messing with her mind. Whoever it is has a key and they’ve gotten angry." His hand gestured to the room. "Do you have any ideas? Have you seen anyone suspicious around the building?"
"Nah, nothing like that." He hitched his pants up, thinking. "Harry might have spotted something. He’s been helping me out."
"Harry?" Mulder’s radar went on alert.
"Yeah, he’s the other super. Young guy, he’d notice things I might miss."
"Why two supers?"
"Oh, he ain’t assigned this building. See, the company owns three buildings now. Two apartment houses and one office building. Harry handles the other apartments and we both work in the offices."
"Would he have a key to this apartment?"
"Well sure, but Harry wouldn’t do this."
"Why?" Skinner asked this, his hand now on Mulder’s arm, ready to restrain him if necessary.
Stan turned to the larger man. "He’s too shy. I kid him all the time about getting a girlfriend."
"What’s this Harry look like?"
"Average. He’s probably six feet if he stands up straight. Brown hair, getting thin on the top. Skinny guy, but he’s strong. He pulls his weight around here. He’s been helping me out quite a bit lately."
"Why is that? You been sick?"
"No, he just volunteered. I didn’t think nothin’ of it." Mulder and Skinner exchanged glances.
"Where can we find Harry?"
"I haven’t heard from him today, so I guess he’s at his building." Stan rattled off an address. "Listen, I don’t think Harry would hurt Ms. Scully. He thinks she’s a real lady too."
Mulder turned back. "Did he ever mention her to you?"
"Not really. I made a comment one time." The man looked down, embarassed. "She was wearing some kind of pink blouse and it was . . . anyway I voiced my appreciation and he got ticked off, told me I shouldn’t talk that way about a lady."
"You didn’t think anything of that?"
"No. He was right and I shut up."
"Come on Mulder, let’s go." Skinner touched his arm again to bring him back to the present. Mulder nodded and they headed out the door.
There was no answer at Harry’s apartment. Mulder didn’t even hesitate, pulling out his housebreaking tools.
"Mulder, no!" Skinner hissed at him, "It would mess up our case."
"Screw the case. He’s taken her and we need to find her." He pushed the door open, ignoring anything else Skinner might have to say. He did notice that Skinner followed him into the room.
It was drab, no pictures on the wall, the couch might have been a color years ago, but not anymore. Mulder looked over at Skinner who just shook his head.
They began searching the apartment carefully. It was Mulder who opened the desk drawer and pulled out the slips of paper. He was still staring at them when Skinner reentered the room.
"What’d you find?"
Mulder turned and handed him the papers. After a minute Skinner looked back up at him. "Is this you?"
Mulder looked down at the ruined photos. "I’m beginning to think he doesn’t like me."
"This man is angry. Are you sure he won’t hurt her?"
"I didn’t say he wouldn’t hurt her. I said he wouldn’t rape her. I’m not sure he’s capable. We’ve got to find him." His jaw was tight.
"Let’s get a team over here to wait for him, and get out of here before we’re caught." Mulder nodded and they got out as Skinner pulled out his phone. The building was under surveillance shortly. Mulder was not part of the team despite his very vocal protests.
"Where is she Harry?" Mulder loomed over him, this was taking too long, but at least the son of a bitch had never denied taking her.
He was cool; he’d just shown up at his apartment as though nothing had happened. Or as though he had nothing to lose.
"Away from you Agent Mulder. Forever away from you. You’ll never be able to force yourself on her again. You shouldn’t have kept putting your hands on her. I watched you, a woman like her doesn’t deserve that."
What an arrogant son of a bitch. "What does a woman like Agent Scully deserve Harry?"
"She deserved to be worshipped, not manhandled."
"Deserved?" The past tense caught his attention immediately. He felt the hairs stand up on the back of his neck.
Harry looked at him without responding. Skinner moved closer to Mulder.
"Where is she Harry? What have you done?" His voice still sounded steady.
"Away from you forever Agent Mulder. You never deserved her anyway. You’ll never even find her body." It only took a second or two for the words to be absorbed. Less than that to jerk him to his feet, Mulder’s hands tight on his arms.
He was ahead of them running. The key fit and he slipped the door open. He fumbled with the wall, finding the latch Harry had described though swollen, bleeding lips. He spotted her immediately lying lifeless on the small cot, dressed in the bathrobe he’d seen on so many trips out of town. He managed to stagger across the room; even the pain in his head receding as shock set in. He knelt beside her and closed his eyes for a second, then reached out with a finger to touch her lips. As he made contact her eyes opened.
"Mulder?" He didn’t react; knowing it was an impossible dream. "I knew you’d find me." Her hand brushed his cheek then and at the physical contact his eyes widened and he reached for her as the room went black.
"Mulder!" She was on her knees now, examining him, taking in the large bandage on his head for the first time. A commotion by the door caused her to turn. She’d defend him tooth and nail if it came to that. But what she saw was Skinner burst into the room and falter to a stop.
"Scully?" He seemed to be having trouble breathing and sank into the chair at the door. She’d never seen him quite so disheveled.
"What’s going on?" She was watching him though her hands had never left Mulder. "Get an ambulance."
"There’s one on the way, in case . . . "
"Sir, please!" Her eyes begged for knowledge.
"He said you were dead. Harry said he’d killed you so no one else could ‘sully’ you. You’d always be pure. He . . . we believed him."
She glanced back at Mulder. God, what had he gone through?
Skinner understood and answered her unspoken question. "He went berserk. It took three of us to pull him off. Harry was defending himself too. That’s how he got the head wound."
Scully closed her eyes a moment. The bastard had managed to psych them both out with their most deep-seated fear, that she would die and leave him alone. She just hadn’t realized until this instant that they both feared exactly the same thing.
"Where’s that ambulance?"
His head hurt and opening his eyes didn’t feel like a good idea. He felt a hand caress his face. "Hey Mulder, I need you to wake up."
Scully? Scully! His eyes flew open despite the pain. He had his hands around her arms already, pulling her close. And she was smiling at him. Alive and smiling. She was talking, Mulder, pay attention.
" . . . what I was thinking when I opened my eyes? I flashed to Sleeping Beauty with my prince rescuing me."
"I may not be up on my fairy tales, but didn’t he wake her with a kiss?" His eyes were locked on hers.
"Yeah, I believe he did." Her eyes were twinkling now.
"Then I feel cheated."
She leaned down and whispered in his ear, "You won’t for long."