"Thank you for coming so promptly." Skinner gestured for them to take seats. "Iíve had a request for Agent Scullyís expertise from the Reno, Nevada field office. You are to report tomorrow morning. I have the file here for your review, such as it is. I wouldnít think youíd be gone more than a week at most."
"Excuse me, is that both of us, Sir?" Mulder asked as the file was handed to Scully.
"No, Agent Mulder. They specifically requested Agent Scully for her forensic background. Iím sure you have enough of a paperwork backlog to keep you occupied until her return."
"Yes, Sir." Scully waited for Skinner to comment on Mulderís tone of voice, but he let it pass. She managed to keep a straight face, Mulder with a week to do paperwork. Yeah, sure, whatever. They rose together to leave the office and headed back to the basement. Once there, he flopped down into his chair. "Just when did we become teacherís pet?"
"You want this one Mulder? Itís floaters. Iíll give it to you."
"Floaters? Yuck, youíre on your own."
"Thanks. Here, why donít you look over the file while I get my stuff together."
"You donít mind?"
"This is not a popularity contest, Mulder. Personally I wish you were going, itís easier than working with strangers. And you usually pick up something that everyone else has missed."
"Tell me youíll be lost without me."
"You wish. Iím going to my cubicle. Iíll be right back." She handed him the file and went upstairs. He flipped through the files. Actually he really didnít envy her, floaters were always horrible and whoever was doing this seemed particularly gruesome. He made some quick notes to check while she was gone.
When she returned he handed her the file. "Youíve got a winner here, Scully. Are there many piranha in the waters of Reno?"
"Why do you ask?" She flipped open the file again.
"Youíre missing body parts according to the information there. Call me and let me know what you find out. Scully, this one looks pretty bad. If you need anythingÖ" He let the sentence trail off, she was a big girl and didnít need him looking after her. StillÖ
"Iíll take care of myself, Mulder. But thanks." She stuffed the last of her papers into her briefcase, snapped it shut and thew her coat over her arm. "See you in a few days."
For a wild second he fantasized her kissing him goodbye, but shook that off and just waved as she went out the door. An immediate gloom settled over the office. It was just different when she was gone. Having the paperwork ahead of him didnít improve his mood either. He reached for the forms.
The flight was uneventful and the information she had to process fascinating if horrific. Mulder had photocopied the notes he had made, for her to go over as well. She just shook her head, heíd only had time to glance at the file and he already had ideas into the guyís personality. The Reno bureau had made a mistake not including him in the investigation, but that had happened before. She felt a twinge of sadness for the man. He was too brilliant for them and he scared them. Of course Mulder didnít do a lot toward endearing himself to them either.
She rented a car and drove to the motel. No one was around to meet her, so she grabbed a quick meal to take to the motel with her. No need going out alone. She got settled in, ate and picked up the phone. "Mulder."
"Hi." She could hear the smile on his face when he realized it was her.
"You got in okay?"
"Yeah, no one around though. Havenít seen anyone from the investigation and no messages."
"Where you staying?" She gave him the phone and room numbers.
She let him complain for a while about the paperwork and needing her help on this and that, then he gave her a few more insights into her case that heíd come up with through the day. Finally she told him she had better get off and see if she could find the rest of her team and get some actual work done. He was reluctant to let her off the phone but eventually said goodnight. After leaving several messages herself, Scully decided to call it a night, having been unable to reach anyone working on the case. The phone rang at 6:30 the next morning, pulling her from sleep. "Scully."
"Agent Scully, sorry we were unavailable last evening. Could you be ready for a briefing in an hour? We can send a car."
"No problem, and I have a car if you can give me directions." That done she jumped in the shower and got ready for her day. Even with the drive over she was five minutes early for the meeting. She introduced herself to the men already assembled. No other women, typical. They sized her up quickly and in their minds found her wanting. She also had the impression that they were very familiar with her regular assignment and thought she probably had Mulder cooties on her.
"If I can have everyoneís attention? Thank you. I am Special Agent Lane, I believe youíve all introduced yourselves. Iíd like to start out by stressing the confidentiality of this case. We want as little media coverage as possible and no outside involvement that can be avoided. With that in mind, Agent Scully, we would appreciate you limiting your contact with your partner until this investigation is over."
"I beg your pardon?" She was trying desperately to hang on to her composure as well as her temper.
"Agent Mulder is not part of this investigation and. . . "
"Am I to understand that the phones are bugged in my hotel room?" Lane avoided her eyes. "I am not to have any contact with my partner this week? If I may, I believe you have made a serious mistake in keeping Agent Mulder from this investigation. He has a great deal of experience in this area and the ability. . . " She stopped as she heard the murmurs from around the room. She stood, "Perhaps Iím the wrong person to handle the forensic part of this investigation. I would hate to have you mistrust a member of your own team."
Lane looked positively panicked at the idea of her walking out. What was that about?
"Agent Scully, Iím sure that wonít be necessary. We value your work and very much want you on this team. We want to stop this killer as soon as possible. Having to bring another agent up to speed would needlessly waste time. Please." He gestured her back to her chair. She didnít know what was going on, but maybe she should hang around long enough to find out. Her eyes gave no quarter, but she did resume her seat. Following the briefing she was led to the autopsy bay to begin her part in the search for clues.
Mulder had been right, body parts were missing and in some cases did appear to be gnawed off, but a deeper investigation showed other body parts missing that werenít as obvious. The pineal, thyroid and suprarenal glands were also missing from every body. Well there had to be a reason, and it meant the killer had some knowledge of anatomy. She knew Mulder would have a theory and a good one, but should she call him?
Damn she hated to autopsy floaters; it was bad enough under less gory circumstances. She needed to talk to him, to get her mind away from this. They didnít have to discuss the case; she just needed a little Mulder fix after an especially bad day. She ate dinner alone again, most people had a problem with the smells of her job, and today seemed worse than normal.
After a long sudsy soak to relax her, she picked up her cell phone to call Mulder. If they had to listen in, she might as well make it a little more difficult for them. "About time you called me back."
"What are you talking about, Mulder?"
"Iíve left you three messages."
"I didnít get them." Were they keeping her messages from her now? Why was it so important to keep everyone out of the loop, or was it just Mulder? "What were you calling about?"
"I found an old X-file that sounds like it has some of the same evidence as your case. Thought you might be interested."
"I am." Her intentions not to discuss the case gone. The issue was to get the case solved and no more women murdered, however it got done. She listened carefully and took notes. The MO was identical and the guy had never been caught, at least for this. The murders had stopped abruptly. Well, that could mean he was caught for something else, and never tied to the murders and now released, or been institutionalized and released, or, oh hell any number of things.
"Did you really not get my messages?" Mulder finally asked.
"No, who did you speak with?"
"Well, the last time I got an Agent Lane."
"Shit." Well, that explained the messages at least.
"Heís heading the investigation. Iíve already been called on the carpet for speaking with you last night."
"Are you kidding?" He didnít know whether to be amused or furious.
"No. You are definitely personae non grata around here. Itís like they donít want us to solve it. I mean, why not use the best?"
"You think Iím the best?" He sounded a little breathless at that, as though she had punched him.
"I can feel the atmosphere changing from the effects of your swollen head from here." She responded dryly, keeping her pleasure at his response tamped deep down. "I better go before they decide to do bed checks or something and catch me having phone sex with you. Iíll call you tomorrow regardless of the house rules and let you know what weíve found."
"Nothing, just good night." He chickened out.
"Good night, Mulder." Damn, heíd chickened out. She smiled; he was getting closer though. One of these days he was going to be confident enough to not panic when she threw the innuendoes instead of him. He just hadnít learned yet how to take it as well as he could dish it out.
She was pulling down her bedspread when the knocking began on her door. Scully tightened her robe and looked out the peephole of the door. Agent Lane, well what do you know? Scully opened the door a crack, obviously not inviting him into her room. "Yes, Agent Lane?"
"Please come with me." He had his hand on the door, why had she not thrown the damn bolt at the top?
"Now, please come with me." He had sounded shaky at first, but was gaining confidence.
"Iím not dressed." She tried to sound reasonable.
"Now, Agent Scully. And bring your cell phone. Please." He couldnít be serious. She didnít move, so he pushed the door open and stepped into her room. "Please donít make me use force, Agent Scully."
One FBI agent kidnapping another. Just how worried should she be? He took her arm. The grip was just short of painful and she was unarmed. Her choices being limited, she allowed him to lead her from the room, her cell phone in his other hand.
He took her up one flight in the elevator and then led her to the room immediately above her own. The man waiting for her there was obviously in charge of whatever was going on.
"Thank you, Agent Lane. You may leave us now."
Scully couldnít quite stop the sneer as he walked past her. The color rose on his face and his steps quickened.
"Dr. Scully, please, wonít you be seated?" He gestured toward the chair opposite him.
She had scanned the room. Oh for the days when all motel rooms had balconies. Her options were practically nil, no gun, hell no clothes. She took the seat and waited.
"I suppose youíre wondering about all of this." Still she waited. "Not very curious, are you? Go ahead, ask your questions."
She looked him in the eye, "Why donít you want this case solved?"
"Well, not what I would have expected as a first question, but fair enough. There is no case to solve, Dr. Scully. Oh, the women, " he waved his hand in dismissal, "they were mere prostitutes, a drain on society. They were tools we had to use to set up this little Ďcaseí for you."
"You murdered four women as a set up?"
"What is it youíre setting up then?"
"I would have thought you would have that answer by now. Surely you know that if we copy cat an x-file we were trying to lure Agent Mulder to us."
"Agent Mulder could have been here two days ago if you wanted him here."
"Ah yes, but if he had been here, assigned to the case, he would have been in top form. He would have discovered very quickly that this was not what it seemed. But to drag him in late, without being at his best Ė thatís how we want him. Too worried about the woman he loves to. . . "
"What?" His statement startled the question out of her.
"Now, Dr. Scully, you are not talking to the FBI now. You donít have to pretend about your relationship. We are not interested in denials, we only want Agent Mulder."
"Oh the why, Dr. Scully. The group that you know as the Consortium has been notoriously ungenerous with their data on the black cancer. Since Agent Mulder is the only person in the U.S. we are aware has been exposed to the black cancer, naturally we want some, um, samples, shall we say."
"Black. . . ? Iím the one that had cancer."
The man smiled, almost kindly, at her. "No, Dr. Scully, the black cancer, the black Ďwormsí that you found on several dead bodies last year."
"Mulder never. . . "
"Obviously Agent Mulder was not completely forthcoming regarding his time in Tunguska. Perhaps he wanted to protect your sensibilities regarding his pain and torture.
Scully managed to keep her face still and made no comment.
"But you were ready for bed when we interrupted you. We can continue this conversation at another time. This will now be your room. Unfortunately, the phone seems to be missing and of course Agent Lane has your cell phone. Well, pleasant dreams, Dr. Scully." He rose and started for the door.
"Do I get to know your name?" She stopped him.
"My name isnít really important, why not just call me Mr. Smith." He nodded and left the room.
She sat unmoving physically, her mind racing. Damn you, Mulder, Iím not with you to be protected, weíre partners! I want to help you. Donít keep your pain from me. Torture, and heíd never mentioned it. Not once. How many nightmares had that added to his repertoire? Well, they had made one mistake. If they thought worry for her would distract him, they hadnít done their homework. Looking for her would hone his skills.
She rose from the chair and started for the bed. After two steps she stopped, he would be on top of his game because he loved her. It was more than caring about a partner. He loved her. He loved her, why didnít that scare her? Mulder was Mulder, not someone to curl up with and grow old. But he loved her, and she felt totally secure with that. All of those calls at night after theyíd spent the entire day together. Theyíd start out as business but often moved on to other topics. And usually, she realized, moved into innuedoes as the time passed and the hour grew late. They were easier with each other on the phone, more open. Sheíd been kidding, but they were having phone sex, at least to a degree. She had to get out of here, she had to get this behind them and find out what they were going to do about this. She flipped off the lights and walked softly to the door. Of course there was someone out there. She needed to think.
Mulder burst into Skinnerís office. "Weíve got a problem."
"Do you ever knock?"
"What?" Now he had Skinnerís attention. "How do you know that?"
"There was a small item on the net, that a member of the FBI team investigating the serial murders in Reno was missing."
Skinnerís eyes narrowed. "I havenít heard a thing."
"What I read wasnít official."
"Why do you assume sheís the missing member?"
"Sheís not answering her phone. I know, I know." He forestalled Skinnerís immediate objection. "This guy only takes women and Scullyís the only woman on the team."
"Have a seat." Skinnerís jaw was so tight Mulder was sure it would crack the next time he spoke. He had flipped through some files on his desk, threw one open, and began to dial.
"Agent Lane." He was silent for a couple of moments. "Lane, this is Assistant Director Walter Skinner, is Agent Scully missing?" Another pause. "Why the hell was I not notified immediately?" An even shorter pause. " Fuck time zones! When one of my agents is in danger I expect instantaneous news. This isnít retail, Lane, Iím on duty 24-hours a day. Agent Mulder is on his way there now." Tiny pause. "Because heís her partner and heís the best we have."
Mulder, who had slumped in the chair on hearing this side of the conversation, stared at Skinner, not quite believing what heíd heard.
"I expect a report from you in one hour, and every hour thereafter. You want to repeat that back to me?" He didnít exactly slam the phone down; it was slightly more controlled than that.
"You heard me, Mulder. Get moving."
"Do you have a list of the team? Are you familiar with them?" He was headed for the door.
"I will be shortly, keep your cell phone on. And Mulder, donít go off half-cocked. Youíre to check in regularly too. Nobody else goes missing on me. Understand?"
Mulder called Skinner as soon as he landed. "Not your worldís best team, is it, Sir?"
"How did you know?"
"Scully said they werenít trying to solve it. They were more interested in making sure we were not in communication than the case."
"The two of you?"
"Yeah, but now Iím here." Skinner could hear the wheels turning.
"Be careful, Mulder. And let me know what you need."
Mulder reviewed the work that had been done on Scullyís disappearance. Second graders would have done a better job. Her room showed no sign of a struggle, her clothes were still here, only nightclothes were missing and no forced entry. So she knew the perp Ė elementary my dear Mulder. Now letís count the number of people she knew in Reno. How had these people made it into the FBI?
Confronting Agent Lane had been first on his agenda. Shit, the man was twitchy. He knew something; Skinner hadnít scared him that bad. Besides Skinner was most of a continent away. Maybe being Spooky wasnít so bad in this case.
He made his report to Skinner on his cell phone from the parking lot. Lane was involved, that was a given, but he didnít know who else. Skinner was livid. Mulder could hear his jaw cracking over the phone. It took some doing, but Mulder convinced Skinner to hold off until he could learn more. After promising to check in within two hours, Mulder signed off.