The next morning Dana left Samantha asleep while she went for their breakfast. She walked to a coffee shop nearby, stopping at the newsstand on the way to pick up a paper. Pete had come through. The smoking man’s picture was on the front page of at least three of the papers. She bought each of them, and asked the man running the stand if he had seen the man in any of the other papers. He was able to point out a couple more, so she bought them too. She tucked them under her arm and hurried to get breakfast for herself and Samantha.
The call was unexpected. “It’s Pete. What the hell have you gotten me into?”
“What? What are you talking about?” It took Dana a moment to realize who she was talking to. “Pete? Is this about that picture?”
“You know damn well it’s about that picture. Who the hell is he?”
“I told you, I don’t know. What’s the problem?”
“I’m getting death threats! They know where I live. This guy some Mafia boss or something?”
“No, I think he works for the government somehow, you know, behind the scenes.”
Pete groaned. “He’s a king maker? Oh Jesus.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Don’t act naďve. You know this damn country is really run by a fucking shadow government. Hell, your old man is probably one of the deep pockets that keeps them in power. That would sure explain how he’s been able to keep all that money he’s got.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Come on, you’re no damn blonde. You have to know your father’s connections . . . oh shit. This man is one of those connections, isn’t he? What the hell have you gotten me into?”
“Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean - “
“You have to meet me. We have to talk. You’re going to have to get me some protection, get me out of town or something.”
“I don’t - “
“You don’t have a choice,” Pete hissed. “So far no one knows I got that picture from you. It won’t stay that way if I’m trying to save my hide.”
“Okay, where?” she agreed quickly. If getting him out of town would keep him quiet, it was worth it.
“Uh, you know the alley behind O’Riley’s?”
“I can find it.”
“Meet me there at nine. It’ll be dark then.”
“All right, but you keep quiet about me giving you that picture or you can forget any help.”
“Fine. Tonight,” he broke the connection and she sank into the chair by the phone. Damn.
Well, there was no way she’d go to that neighborhood alone at night, but she knew she had to go. She called for a car, then opened her safe. She took out an envelope of cash, then on impulse wrapped one of the butts in a tissue and put it in her pocket, making sure she didn’t touch it herself. Maybe he’d know someone who could check out the DNA. If he was as paranoid as he sounded, he’d know people.
She wanted Mulder.
Fortunately the driver on duty that night was one she’d used many times before. When she gave Tim the address, he turned to look at her. “Are you sure Ms. Scully? That’s not a place you should be going.”
“I know. I don’t want to go, but I need to meet someone. This is where he said we had to meet. I think he’s trying to stay out of sight.”
“All the more reason for you not to go.”
Dana smiled then. “I’ll have you with me.”
He shrugged and held the door for her to enter. She was glad she’d specified the smaller car. In the dark, it wouldn’t stand out like one of the limos she normally favored.
They were quiet on the way. Tim could tell Dana was nervous, but whatever she was doing here was none of his business.
When he pulled up to the corner, he parked. “Do you want me to go with you?”
“No, but please wait for me.”
“I’m not going anywhere, Ms. Scully. Not until you’re back in the car safe.”
“I won’t be long.” She let herself out of the backseat, motioning for Tim to remain seated. He shook his head but didn’t try to dissuade her. She squared her shoulders, gave him a shaky smile and headed into the alley. His smile disappeared as soon as she wasn’t looking. This wasn’t a good idea.
She headed down the alley, keeping quiet, her eyes and ears alert for any movement. Her flashlight wasn’t illuminating that much. When she reached the end, she saw a fence lined with trashcans. Where was he? There were at least two businesses with back doors that opened up to the area. “Pete?” she whispered, but there was no answer. She was right on time; had he tricked her into coming . . . her foot hit something and she swung her flashlight down. Oh God! It was Pete. She backed away quickly, her flashlight illuminating more of the . . . the body. Oh god, what had she gotten them into? She took a couple more steps back, moving her flashlight around the area. She couldn’t see anyone but she needed to get out of there fast!
Without really thinking about it, she drew the cigarette butt from her pocket. With a bravery she hadn’t known she possessed, she approached the body again and dropped the butt beside him. Then she turned and ran back to the car.
He was out of the car immediately and grabbed her arms as she ran toward him.
“What! Is anyone - “
“Call 911! The man I was supposed to meet, he’s lying on the ground back there. I, I think he’s . . .”
“What? Is he hurt?”
“I think he’s dead. There was a man, but he jumped over the fence.”
“You saw it! You could have been hurt!”
“I don’t think he saw me.”
“Get in the car - “
“We can’t leave. Call 911.”
Reluctantly he nodded and pulled out his cell phone.
There had obviously been a car nearby, because the police were there in minutes. She got out of the car when they arrived. No crowd had gathered since there had been nothing to hear.
“You placed a 911 call?”
“Yes. I, I was supposed to meet someone here tonight and, and when I got here I saw him on the ground. I think he’s dead, back, back there. I think he was shot,” she pointed. The policeman closest to her narrowed his eyes.
“There’s a body back there?”
“Go! Check him out, maybe he’s still alive. I didn’t, I didn’t touch him.”
“Wait here. Don’t leave.”
She shook her head. The two policemen hurried, disappearing into the alley where she’d pointed. Quickly one of them returned and called for transport of a body, then turned to the two of them. “Tell me what happened.”
“Tim didn’t see anything. He waited here in the car for me,” Dana stepped forward.
“And what were you doing here?”
“The man back there, his name is Pete Ruzicka. He’s a photographer.”
“Paparattzi you mean.”
She nodded. “He called me and said he had some pictures of me he thought I should see.”
“That was my first thought. I needed to find out, so I asked Tim to bring me here. When I went back there I saw a man standing over something. He didn’t see me but I knew he was too tall to be Pete.”
“You knew the victim?”
“I’ve seen him often enough.”
The policeman nodded and motioned for her to continue. “I didn’t hear anything, but the man that was looking at him lit a cigarette from the one he was smoking and dropped the old one beside the, beside the body. Then he stepped up on something and went over the fence. When I knew he was gone, I moved closer and realized he had been standing over Pete. I didn’t . . . I ran back out here and asked Tim to call you.”
The cop took notes, then turned to Tim. “What did you see?”
“Nothing. I didn’t go back there. I didn’t want to leave Ms. Scully alone.”
“Okay. We’ve got someone from homicide on the way.”
“I think I should get Ms. Scully home. You have her statement. Can’t they question her tomorrow, or even tonight, but not here? I want to get her out of here before the press shows up.”
“I can’t let you leave the scene.”
“I understand that, but under the circumstances - “
“I’m not planning to leave town,” Dana interrupted. “If I give you my unlisted number, you can reach me at any time.”
The cop looked over at Tim, who nodded. “She’ll be here when you need her. Ms. Scully’s class.”
“I have to search you. Make sure you aren’t carrying a weapon or have one in the car.”
“Now wait a minute - “
“Tim, it’s okay. I’m not carrying a weapon. I don’t mind if he checks.” She removed her coat and handed it to him, then her purse. When he was through he returned the items to her and checked the car.
“I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to frisk you and your driver.”
She took a deep breath and looked over at Tim. He didn’t look happy and stepped closer to protest. “You get out of line . . . “ The threat was clear.
“I know my job. I don’t want to offend Ms. Scully, but it could mean my job if I don’t do this.”
Dana nodded at Tim and he nodded but didn’t step back. When the officer was through, he frisked Tim as well.
“Can we leave now?” Tim’s voice was frosty.
“I won’t let you down,” Dana looked up at the officer. “Have the detective call me tonight. I’ll be in my apartment the rest of the night.”
Finally the cop nodded.
“I need your name and how to reach you as well,” she reminded the cop. They exchanged information, then Tim hurried her into the car and took her home.
He walked her to the elevator. “Are you going to be okay, Ms. Scully? Wouldn’t you rather I take you to your parents’ home?”
“No. I appreciate it, Tim and I’m so sorry I got you involved in something like this. I want to be at my place tonight. Please let me know if you need anything, if they give you any trouble . . . “
“I’ll be fine. You need to let me know if you need anything.” She nodded and squeezed his hand. He pushed the button for the elevator and waited until the doors shut behind her.
She let herself in and locked up behind her. The windows were locked as well, though she didn’t worry too much about cat burglars. She checked her bedroom; the loveseat and rug hadn’t been disturbed, so she was going to assume that no one had been here. She needed Mulder.
Without realizing it was her intention, she picked up the phone and dialed Samantha’s home. John answered. “Hi, it’s Dana. I was . . . I just - “
“Yeah, I know. We haven’t heard anything.”
“I figured you hadn’t, but I wanted to check in.”
“Did something happen?”
“I, I don’t want to bother you.”
“I’m going to be in the city tomorrow. I have an appointment, then I was going to go by the police station and see if I could push a little. Would you be free for an early dinner?”
“Yes, please. Why don’t you come here? We can have privacy. That can be hard to find when I’m around.”
“I remember. I’d like that. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Thank you, John.”
She had just hung up when the phone rang again. “Hello?”
“This is Detective Paschall. Is this Dana Scully?”
“Yes, sir. I’m glad you called.”
“You shouldn’t have left the scene.”
“I understand, but I’m available to speak with you. Would you like to come here?”
“As a matter of fact I am here; downstairs.”
“Please, come up to the 5th floor. I’ll meet you there.”
“Thank you. We’re on our way.”
She was outside of the elevator when it opened. “I’m Dana Scully. Please come inside.”
The two detectives, Paschall and Audra, followed her inside and took the seats she offered. “It’s late, but would you like some coffee?”
“No, thank you. We just wanted to get your information down while it was still fresh.”
“Of course. I told Officer Tomlinson everything I saw.”
“Yes, if you could go over that again please.”
She told the same story she had told the officer earlier. “You saw the shooter throw down a cigarette?”
“I saw a man standing there throw down a cigarette. I didn’t hear a shot or see a gun. I only saw the flare of the cigarette when he lit the new one from the old one. I didn’t even realize he was standing over a body at that time. But he dropped the cigarette and went over the fence.”
“Was he running?”
“No. He got over the fence but he didn’t vault it, not like an athlete.”
“Could you tell an age, race?”
“White, tall, an adult. I’m sorry.”
Detective Audra spoke, “You went to meet this photographer because he was blackmailing you?”
“I went to meet him because he called and said he had pictures. He didn’t mention money or selling me anything. I went to see what he had. Things like this have happened to friends of mine. Did you find any pictures?”
“Do you think the other man might have taken . . . “
“We have no way of knowing that.”
She sighed. “So I wait and see if some doctored photographs are posted on-line or show up in some tabloid.”
”I’m sorry. I suppose that’s always a worry for you.”
She nodded. “What else do you need from me?”
“Nothing at this time. We appreciate you seeing us this late.”
“I was glad you called. I didn’t want to wait until tomorrow, but Tim was so concerned about getting me home before more photographers showed up.”
“It was good of him to worry about you.”
“Yes, it was,” she said with a ghost of a smile. “Do you think you’ll be able to find the person that did this?”
“We have some evidence that we’re processing.”
“I’m sorry. Of course you can’t . . . Is there anything else I can do?”
The men took it as dismissal and rose. “We’ll be in touch. If you’re going to be out of town, please let us know.”
“I have no plans to travel at this time.”
Detective Paschall shook her hand and she escorted them to the door. Once they were gone she locked her door and leaned against it trying to force herself to relax. Maybe being thrust into the media all her life wasn’t all bad. She was on edge, which was normal for having found a dead body, but not guilty. They couldn’t know she had left evidence. She didn’t know if the smoking man had killed Pete, but he was involved. She was sure of that. And now they’d have his DNA to check if they were ever able to locate him.
Dana opened the door for John and hugged him when he came inside. That surprised him a little, but he returned the hug. “Dana? You okay?”
“I don’t know. Did they have any news?”
He shook his head. “I’m worried about Bill and Teena. This is so hard on them.”
“I know. Come on in.” She took his coat and led him to the kitchen area. “Wine?”
“No, I have to drive home and it makes me sleepy.” He grinned at her. Then he noticed that her hands were shaking slightly as she poured him a glass of tea. “What’s going on? Talk to me.”
She set the pitcher down and looked up at him.
“Dana? What’s wrong?”
“Sit, we should eat. You have a long drive.”
“Okay, but talk to me while we eat.”
She nodded and set the meal on the table. Watching her he took his seat and at her urging began to eat. She played with her own meal and at his insistence started talking.
As she told him what she had done, the picture, the DNA, his meal was forgotten as well. “I don’t believe this. Dana, you could be in danger. If you’re right, they killed that man because of a picture you took. Are you sure it can’t be traced back to you?”
“I don’t know. The smoking man didn’t know I took the picture. The one that was published in the papers had the background taken out. There was no credit given for the picture, I checked. I’ve heard Pete worked off the books as much as possible. He made more that way. There’s no reason for the police to check, but even if they do, there’s not enough to identify my parents’ foyer. The police don’t know about any connection between the picture and me, or between Pete and the picture for that matter.”
“Do you still have it here?”
Dana nodded and rose. She hurried to the office and brought the picture and the baggie holding the second cigarette butt back to the table. John picked up the picture and perused it carefully. Finally he nodded, placing it back on the table. “I think you’re right. There’s no art work to identify it. The door frame could be anywhere.” He picked up the baggie then. “So this has his DNA?”
“If he is what you think he is, it will be easy for the evidence to disappear. I have some friends, guys I’ve worked with, that could do more than the police, quicker and make sure it won’t vanish easily.”
“Would they be in danger?”
“They’re pretty good about keeping a low profile. Fox met with them about something before he disappeared. He trusted them.”
“Then I can too. If you give them this, will you make sure they know how dangerous it can be?”
“I promise. Now, you should eat something.”
“Fox thinks a lot of you. He’ll be back. You have to believe that.”
Tears unexpectedly filled her eyes. “I do.”
John reached across and squeezed her hand, then urged her to eat again. With him there, she managed to eat a few bites. He left a little before eight and promised to be in touch after he had handed the information over to his friends. Her loneliness grew exponentially when he was gone. Part of her felt better for having the picture and the cigarette out of her home, but there was guilt that these unknown friends of John’s might be in danger. Finally exhausted she fell asleep around three only to be awakened in a couple of hours by her nightmare.
Where was Mulder? What were they doing to him? Had she made it worse? She’d had no doubt that horrible man was involved, and she was even more convinced now. She had gotten Pete killed for helping her. As odious as the man had been to her and the people she knew, he hadn’t deserved that. It was a long time until dawn.
The time dragged and the police had no leads. John’s friends had the information, DNA and picture on the web, but the links to it were unavailable for now.
Frustrated she made her way to her parent’s home, and without warning walked in on her father in his study. He looked up startled as the door opened and quickly blanked the screen of his computer. “I didn’t know you were home.”
“I came to see you. You know the doctor I was seeing is missing. I believe your friend is responsible.”
“What friend? I don’t have thugs as - “
“’Smoky’. I believe he arranged for the same ‘friends’ that took Charlie to take Dr. Mulder.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Dana. No one - “
“Dr. Mulder was taken the same way Charlie was, the lights, the shaking. Aliens took him and Smoky led them to him. I want him back, I want them both back safe and sound.”
She took a step forward, her voice low and vehement, “You can reach him; I know it. Tell him I can keep his information secret if he has them return Charlie and Dr. Mulder.”
“His picture, his DNA. It’s on the web; it can be removed, but I want them back.”
“Dana, you can’t be . . . You think that I - “
“Don’t bother, Father. I want them returned. You know this man, contact him.” She turned then and left the house.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.