He squatted beside the body and watched as the CSI turned her. She was a young woman, late twenties, red hair. He looked closely at the back of her neck.
“Is she one of his?”
“Yeah.” Mulder took a deep breath. Another one and he was no closer. This woman fit the profile of no profile. The last one had been a man, nearly sixty. His neck snapped. A disturbance at the front door caught his attention.
“What’s going on? This is my apartment. What are you doing here?” A feminine voice reached him.
Mulder rose to his feet. The victim was supposed to be the tenant, that’s what they’d told him. He moved to the door and saw another young red headed woman; there was definitely a resemblance to the corpse. He withdrew his badge and stepped up to the officer that was keeping the woman from entering.
“I’m Special Agent Fox Mulder. Did you say you live here?”
“Dana Scully, yes, this is my apartment. What’s going on here?”
“Could we speak out here for a minute?” It wasn’t a request, and he took hold of her elbow. He led her a few steps down the hall from her door, away from the sight of the CSI team working.
“What’s wrong?” She was obviously torn between fear and anger.
“May I see some ID?” She was watching his face and scrambled in her bag to find her wallet. He looked at it quickly and returned it to her. “Dr. Scully, do you live here alone?”
“Yes.” She looked up into his face and saw the compassion there.
“What’s happened?” Her voice shook slightly.
“I’m afraid there’s been a murder. We were led to believe that the victim was the tenant, you. Can you give me your whereabouts for the last several hours?”
“Yes, I was at work. I’m a doctor at Georgetown Memorial. My shift started at 7 a.m. Please, what - “
He glanced at his watch, nearly 4 p.m. “Your neighbor reported a disturbance that occurred around 7:30 this morning. Unfortunately, she didn’t report it until after 10 a.m. I only arrived a little while ago. What time did you leave?”
“Si-six thirty. There’s, there’s someone dead in my apartment? Who, who is it?”
“From the description, we thought the woman was you. She has no ID on her.”
Her face paled.
“I’m sorry, but do you think . . . we need an identification of the victim.”
She nodded and seemed to stiffen her spine. He admired that, she was such a tiny little thing. He felt like he loomed over her, but she hadn’t backed down or pulled away.
He walked her into the main room of her apartment and she felt a certain comfort from the old fashion courtesy of this man's hand on her lower back. Mulder looked over at the CSI and nodded. The man gently unzipped the black bag that rested in the middle of the room and lifted the cover from the face.
The gasp caused Mulder to tighten his grip on her. “Missy!”
She turned then and covered her face. His arms went around her as her knees buckled. He supported her into the bedroom, which had already been cleared, and sat her on the bed.
“It can’t be!”
“Put your head down.”
“I’m f-fine.” She demurred.
“Put your head down anyway.” He gently pushed her head down between her knees and she didn’t fight him. Shortly her breathing became less labored and he helped her to sit up. Tears were streaming down her face.
“Who’s Missy?” He asked gently.
”Me-Melissa, my sister.”
He nodded slightly, that explained the resemblance.
“She’s not even supposed to be here. I didn’t know she was in town.”
“Does she have a key?”
She nodded and took the tissue he handed her. “I gave it to her when I moved in. She, she moved around a lot. I wanted her to always be able to feel wel-welcome here. Oh god.”
“Dr. Scully, this is not your fault.”
“I need to call my family. Mr. Mulder, I need to call . . .” A sob escaped her then.
Mulder closed his eyes for a second. “Mulder.”
“Just Mulder. There’s been a, a mistake made here. Based on the location and description, your sister was identified as you. Your parents have already been notified. They’re on their way.”
Her hand covered her mouth then. “They think, they think I’m dead.”
He nodded, thinking quickly. “Dr. Scully, based on what we have here, there’s a possibility that you were the target.” She looked up quickly and he found her hand in his. “It’s just a feeling, but I think we should get you out of here. I’ll take you to a secure location. As soon as your parents arrive, they’ll be informed - “
“And that will make it better how?” She looked down and wiped her face again.
The CSI tapped on the door, “Agent Mulder?”
Mulder looked over at him and nodded, giving permission to remove the body. The younger man slipped away, leaving them alone again.
“I’m sorry Dr. Scully, I really do want to get you out of here and someplace safe.“
She didn’t seem to hear him. “You need to get some things together; you might be away for a few days.”
She looked up then, “What? I can’t, I can’t leave. My family - “
“Dr. Scully, I need you to focus. I know this is a terrible time for you, but I want you to be protected. Please, pack a bag.”
She looked at him, obviously confused.
“You are the first break we’ve had in this case. I’m going to take you somewhere we can protect you. And you might be able to help us catch this guy before he harms anyone else.”
She finally met his eyes and saw that he was serious. She rose to her feet with his help and after a moment of uncertainty, turned toward her closet. She pulled out an overnight bag and laid it on the bed. He moved to the door, giving her some privacy and pulled out his cell phone to report to his A.D. and make arrangements.
In a few minutes she squeezed past him and entered the bathroom. He turned to look at her room, it looked comfortable. The walls were pale green and she had a couple of impressionist paintings on the walls. Her furniture was warm oak. There was a queen size bed, dresser and chest of drawers, holding a jewelry chest and some photographs. A small upholstered chair was at the window; the fabric picked up the color in the art. Her bedside table had several books stacked on it, the only ‘clutter’ in the room. It was a strange collection - medical journals, a fashion magazine, a Sherry Tepper novel and one by Dean Koontz. She had packed slacks and sweaters. He couldn’t see below the top layer and didn’t move closer.
He turned and gave her a nod, squeezing her arm. He let her past him to finish her packing, then he lifted the suitcase off the bed.
He led her from the apartment and into his car. “I’m taking you to the Hilton Towers.”
“When can I talk to my parents?”
He looked down at her with regret, “Not for a while.”
“But I - “
“I know, I’m sorry. This is for your protection.” She realized his hand was on her lower back again. He opened the door and seated her in his car, then placed her suitcase in his trunk. He slipped behind the steering wheel and started the engine. She didn’t look at him, staring out the passenger’s window.
At the hotel, Mulder checked in, keeping her at his side. She had come with him, but he still wasn't sure she understood. She was quiet, too quiet. He led her to the elevator and on to the room. He checked out the bathroom, looked around the room, then set the suitcase on the low cabinet.
She didn’t speak; just let herself into the bathroom. He watched her make her silent way. She was holding it all in and he was concerned. She had no reason to talk to him, but until they could get a team together, he was all there was.
He wasn’t good with people, not on this level. He knew that. He did okay with women, they seemed to like being with him. He’d been taught lovemaking by an expert, but in a case like this . . .
He jerked to attention when the door opened and the small redhead returned to the main room. She’d washed her face, combed her hair. “Can I get you anything?”
She shook her head.
“There will be a team of agents to stay with you.” He wanted to reassure her. “A female agent will spend the night, and - “
“I have to stay here over night?”
“Uh, yes, maybe several.” She sank onto the foot of the bed. “I’m sorry. I won’t bother you; I’ll just sit over here and look through my notes. The TV won’t bother me, if you want . . . ”
She seemed to nod. He ached for her, losing a sister hit a little too close to home for him, but she didn’t seem to want to talk. He pulled out the chair at the small table and opened the file he had brought inside. After glancing over at her again, he spread the photos of the victims out to look at them once more. What had he missed? What was the connection? How many times had he looked at these damn pictures?
He lost himself in the information, as so often happened on these cases. There was a reason, but the only thing that linked them was the cause of death. They had all been killed by bare hands, brute strength. And then the wound. Post-mortem the killer had sliced into the back of their necks. It made no sense. There were no trophies taken, the wound was too small to be more than just a signature, but why? That’s what he couldn’t figure.
“Is that the others?” He jerked back to the present at the sound of her voice close behind him. He immediately pushed the photos into a neat pile and flipped them over.
“I’m sorry. I just . . . I can’t, I need to do something.”
He nodded; this would drive him up the wall. “You’re a doctor?”
She hesitated then shrugged. “I don’t blame you for doubting it. I haven’t acted - “
“This isn’t a case, it’s personal. You’ve been great under trying circumstances. What uh, what kind of doctor are you?”
She gave him an ironic half smile then, “I’m a pathologist.” He blinked at that. Not at all what he’d expected of such a diminutive woman. She caught his shock. “I get that a lot.” She said dryly.
“I’m sorry, it’s just a surprise.”
“I know; I’m used to it.” She sighed. “I wonder if my parents are here yet.”
“I wish I could let you speak with them. I know they’ll be devastated.” He rose and placed a hand on her shoulder. He felt awkward; where was the female agent they were going to send? “Without knowing how he targets his victims, I need to keep you out of sight.”
“I wonder if they’ll be . . . “
“What?” He gave her his chair and took a seat on the foot of the bed.
“Missy is, was a ‘free-spirit’. She hadn’t been in the family for a long time. It was her choice; they would never kick her out. She rebelled against the military life a long time ago. Dad’s Navy. It was hard, we moved a lot. The boys didn’t seem to mind, but Missy didn’t adjust as well. Neither did I to be honest, but she went . . . I guess you’d say ‘hippie’. She never held a job for more than a couple of months. She experimented with drugs. I don’t think she ever asked our parents for money, but she came to me a couple of times. That’s why I gave her my key. I couldn’t think of her as homeless.”
She looked up at the ceiling for a moment. “Why was she here? She had to need something. And coming to me cost her . . . “
He leaned forward and took hold of her hand, massaging it lightly. “This wasn’t your fault. A sick person came into your apartment and did this. If she hadn’t been there, he would have killed you.”
“But if he was after me - “
“No. You can’t take that on. And maybe, with your help, we can catch this guy; find out who he’s after next.”
“I could help find him?” She asked slowly.
“I imagine you do that a lot in your job. Forensics is a big part of what you do. This isn’t exactly the way you’re used to assisting the police, but . . . “ he shrugged.
“May I see the photos?”
“Are you sure?”
After a moment, she nodded.
He rose and spread the pictures out on the bed. These weren’t the crime scene photos, just pictures the victims’ families had given them. The more gruesome ones were at his apartment. He had those memorized. With these he had wanted to see the person, not the victim.
“Do you recognize anyone?”
She stepped closer and looked over his shoulder. She was quiet as she looked at the faces. Finally she shook her head. “I don’t know any of these people.”
“That’s been the problem. There’s no connection between the victims. It’s hard to profile when there’s nothing to go on. Age, sex, occupation, location, nothing in common about their lives. Only their deaths.” He shuffled the photographs together again and tucked them in a file.
“How about something to eat, Dr. Scully?” He picked up the food service menu.
“Just Scully.” She tried a weak smile at her quip and he returned it. “Room service? Can’t we go - “
“You’re in protective custody. We can’t expose - “
“We don’t have to leave the hotel. Couldn’t we eat in the dining room? I’m going crazy here. I just need a little air. You’ll be with me and only the FBI knows where I am.”
Mulder looked her over; she was under tremendous stress with only him to lean on. “You’ll stay at my side?”
“I promise.” There was no irony in her voice; she found she felt safer close to him.
He settled his gun more firmly in his holster, then opened the door, checking the hall. He motioned for her to move to his side. Again his hand settled on the small of her back and she felt some comfort.
They rode down the elevator, picking up people as they descended. There were a lot of people in the lobby. Mulder took her arm and led her toward the dining room.
He was on guard, looking around the lobby. There were more people than he had expected. He was ready to tell her they had to return to the room when her arm was jerked from him. He glanced up to see a large man pulling her away. The man hadn’t been there just a second ago. Scully blinked, startled then began to struggle.
“Let her go!” Mulder had his gun in his hand. The other people in the lobby froze, then began scrambling away. The man looked at him and Mulder aimed the gun higher, both arms stiff in front of him. “FBI, let the woman go.”
The man sneered at him, then looked around the lobby at the crowd that was watching him. Without warning he released her and shoved her toward Mulder, then he plunged into a thick clump of people. There was screaming and yelling, a couple of people lost their footing in the melee as Mulder lunged after him.
He wasn’t there. Mulder hadn't seen anyone go out the door, but the man was no longer anywhere to be found. Mulder returned to her side to find security flanking her. “Thanks.” He moved her away from them after flashing his badge.
“Are you all right?” He did loom over her now as though protecting her with his body.
“Was that him?” She was breathless, but she seemed in control. She was a lot stronger than she looked.
“Yeah, I think it was.”
“He would have killed me. How did he know we were - “
“That’s what I want to find out. Come on, let‘s get your things. We’re getting out of here.”
“But they - “
“We’ll talk about it in the car. Come on.” He hustled her back into the elevator and pressed seven.
She threw the few things she had removed back into the suitcase and he grabbed it up, rushing her from the room. She hurried to get into the passenger side as he threw the bag into the back seat.
She was quiet until he took a turn off the highway, toward the airport. “We’re leaving town?”
“But - “
He held up his hand and surprised, she kept quiet. He pulled into long-term parking. She exited the car when he did and watched him grab her bag from the back. He opened the trunk and took out his own bag and they moved toward the terminal. She turned toward the ticket counter, but he stopped her.
She didn’t have a lot of choice, but she was becoming frustrated now. “What are we doing?” She finally hissed at him.
“We’re getting a car.”
“We have a car.”
“Trust me, please.” He stopped and looked down at her. After a moment she nodded. “Stay close to me.”
He walked up to the counter and smiled at the attendant. She immediately returned the smile and Dana’s eyebrow rose. “How can I help you?” She cooed at him.
For some reason that bothered her more than she knew it should. He was her protection, nothing more, but he had been kind to her. His reactions protecting her, keeping her safe regardless, had startled her.
The attendant was a tall woman, probably 5’8”, with long dark hair. Now she was leaning toward him, giving him a better view of her ample cleavage as well as her name badge.
Finally he felt comfortable. This was a role he played often. Women liked to look at him. None of them knew him and that was fine. He just needed a car to get her to safety. “Kaitlen, we’d like a car. Sorry, I didn’t think to reserve one before we arrived.”
“That’s okay Mr. - ?”
“Hale, George Hale. We’ll need it for a week.”
“Of course. Here on business or pleasure?”
Mulder put his arm around Scully and smiled at the attendant, “Pleasure.”
Her smile dimmed ever so slightly. “Full size?”
“Do you have anything sporty?” He smiled full wattage at her and Dana watched her respond to it with eyes narrowed. The woman seemed to have forgotten she was even standing there.
“Let me check.” Kaitlen turned to her computer and very shortly looked back over at Mulder. “I have a Mustang that might fit the bill.”
He gave her another smile, “that would be great.”
Kaitlen returned to her computer, then she handed him the printout. “What credit card do you want to use?”
Mulder pulled out his wallet and handed over a card. Dana kept quiet. When the transaction was recorded, Kaitlen came out from behind the counter and to Dana’s surprise began to lead them to the door. She’d never gotten that kind of service.
Just outside the door, Kaitlen began to give Mulder directions to pick up the car and he listened attentively. She finally seemed to remember Dana and looked in her direction if not directly at her. “I hope you have a nice vacation, Mrs. Hale.”
Dana nodded silently. As they were ready to walk off, a red Mustang convertible drove up.
“Now that’s what I was talking about. Any way we could switch?” That smile again. Dana wanted to slug him.
“Well, I guess we could. It hasn’t been cleaned.”
“Not a problem. As long as there’s gas.”
“We’d have to redo - “
“Could you handle that for us? We’d really like to get on the way.” He touched the brunette’s arm and Dana watched her relax as she leaned closer.
“I guess I could.”
“Thank you. I hope you’re on duty when we return it.”
“I work evenings Wednesdays and Thursdays, and I’m here during the day Monday, Tuesday and Friday.” She glanced over at Dana once again as though just remembering her.
Dana mentally shook herself. The desire to claw the woman’s eyes out was totally out of proportion.
“I really appreciate this, Kaitlen.” Mulder took the keys and opened the trunk, loading both of their bags, then opened Dana’s door. She slipped in without a word. He winked at the brunette and moved smoothly around the car. They pulled out toward the exit to the highway.
He glanced over at Scully, but she was staring out at the passing scenery. “You okay?”
She thought of several comments, but settled on “George Hale?”
“Sometimes I need to keep a low profile.”
“You have ID in a different name.”
She shook her head and looked out the window again, trying to put his reaction to the other woman out of her mind. That wasn't important now, why couldn't she focus?
He woke her as he pulled up to what looked like a small cabin. It was too dark to see it clearly.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”
“It’s okay, I’m actually a pretty boring guy.” He grinned.
“Somehow I don’t believe that.” She didn’t smile. Then she turned toward the building, “Where are we?”
“Quonochontaug, Rhode Island.” He responded. “This is my family’s lake house. We used to come here when we were kids. I haven’t been up here in years.”
“It took us a long time.”
“I took a ‘circuitous' route. We weren’t followed.”
“Are you always this paranoid?”
“Yep.” He yawned, then opened his car door and got out, stretching.
“I’m sorry, you must be exhausted.”
He shrugged, “Let’s get inside.” He took their bags from the trunk, then used a key from his own key ring to open the door and tried the lights. To his relief, they worked. He yawned hugely and she looked over at him.
“Go on to bed, Mulder.”
He nodded, too tired to argue. “Let me lock up.”
“I’ll do it.”
He started to protest, but she looked up at him, her eyebrow raised. He gave her a tired smile and moved toward the couch.
“You can’t get comfortable there, Mulder.” She turned him toward the open door of the bedroom. He sighed and did as she bade.
"I only need a couple of hours." He yawned and she nodded, not bothering to correct him.
After he left her, she realized the bathroom was in the bedroom, as well as her bag. She sighed and made sure everything was locked, then stepped quietly into the bedroom. Mulder was sprawled on top of the bedspread, the dust sheet tossed to the floor. He had removed his shoes, which were on the floor in front of the door, and his suit coat and tie were tossed across a chair. He was still in his slacks and dress shirt, which was unbuttoned half way down. He was sound asleep.
She opened her suitcase, withdrew her bag of toiletries and entered the bathroom. When she emerged, she glanced out into the living room and grimaced at the love seat. The man was dressed and had been a complete gentleman.
She made her decision, then carefully joined him on the bed. He didn’t even stir, so she relaxed. She expected to lay awake, thinking about what had occurred to her, her family, since she had first seen this man. The horror of seeing Missy like that seemed to be fuzzy now, a defense mechanism. Regardless, between the emotion and the adrenaline, her body decided the nap wasn't enough and pulled her under.