The new information had at least given them a place to start. Scully had spoken with the office at Central High and gotten a list of alumni that lived in the area. They assembled a list of people to be interviewed from Mulderís profile.
"We've got our work cut out for us Mulder. This is the closest city and a lot of people have moved here."
"We'll get teams to do the legwork." He grinned at her, "So I was right as usual."
"Don't push it."
Mulder looked up to see Greg headed toward him. He seemed a little tense. Where was Scully? Mulder looked around to see if he could have missed her entrance. No, maybe she stopped at the ladies room. Greg proceeded into his office and Mulderís eyebrow rose.
"Well then, whatís wrong?"
"You know that partner of yours is a real tease."
"What?" He half rose from the chair, what the hell kind of comment was that?
"A real prick tease. I swear - "
"Did you come on to Scully?" He wasnít sure whether he was more furious at the audacity or amused that Scully had obviously handled the situation.
"Come on? Whatís that? We had a good time last night. You said yourself she wasnít involved with anyone. I thought we could have a nice time while she was in town." But his voice now held just a note of defensiveness.
"A nice time? Which would include you taking advantage of a woman that you barely know?" Whatever Scully had done to put him in his place, Mulder was itching to do more. "Where is Scully anyway?"
"Isnít she here?" Greg looked around the outer office.
"She left with you." His voice had become lower, more ominous.
Greg missed it, still smarting from her reaction. "After her little tantrum she went off to finish the interviews. She made it plain she didnít want my company." Greg ran a hand through his hair, still disbelieving that she had rejected him so thoroughly.
"You left her?" Mulder advanced on him now. "You drove off and left her in the field?" His voice was rising.
"Sheís a big girl, she can find her way back here." But his voice was becoming very defensive now.
Mulder jerked his cell phone from his jacket and punched the speed dial for Scullyís phone. "The cell phone user you have requested is either away from the phone or out of the service area at this time." He punched the button much like he wanted to punch this asshole standing in front of him.
"Where is she?" His voice was a deep bass now and totally threatening.
"Sheís turned off her phone, big deal."
"Scully doesnít do that." Mulder was close to him now and Greg had the urge to back up, away from him. "Where did you leave her?"
"Look, man, sheíll be walking through that door any minute. Chill out."
"You better pray she does." For the first time Greg was aware that he was actually afraid of this man. Why? Mulder wasnít bigger than he was; they were both in good shape. But this man would kill him without a second thought, he realized, if anything happened to his partner. Maybe she wasnít involved with anyone, but he sure as hell was. "Whereís the list you were using?"
"Uh, I think she has it."
Mulder pursed his lips. The city could afford a building like this, and then staffed it with idiots like him? "Iíll get a copy. What was your area?"
Greg told him and Mulder seated himself again in front of the computer. He pulled up their list. "Show me how far you got." Greg leaned over him to study the screen. Mulder tried to control his loathing of the man. He looked him over - Greg didnít do anything for him, but he supposed women could find him attractive. Scully had, hadnít she? Until . . . where the hell was she? What was happening? She was good at her job, he knew that, but if sheíd been distracted by what had happened with this asshole . . . what had he done?
"Here." Greg pointed to the screen. "There was no answer here either. Man, she was rabid about talking to every person on our list."
"How the hell did you ever make detective?" Without waiting for an answer he left the room to find Gregís superior.
Chief Sams was understandably livid and Mulder could detect more than a little chagrin though it was unremarked. He immediately called each of the teams for an update and pulled them in. The search changed, focusing on her last known location. This time it was Mulder who briefed the men and led the search. Detective Marcum was placed on desk duty and, Mulder hoped awaited disciplinary action.
Mulder assigned himself the street where the bastard had left her. He emerged from the car and stood for a moment just observing the houses. Come on, Mulder, donít you see anything that might lead to her? He scanned the street again.
"Agent Mulder? Where do you want to start?" He sighed, nothing. He pointed to the first house on the right side of the street.
He allowed the detective accompanying him to ask the questions, while he observed the inhabitants. After about the fourth house he was ready to explode. She couldnít have gotten beyond this street, not in the time allotted. Unless something had caused her to move elsewhere. No, donít start second-guessing yet. He had them checking on taxis already, the SOB had left her with no transportation. She could still easily be here; there were plenty of houses to check.
She pushed her hair back and tucked it behind her ear. Her hand was still shaking from where it had collided with Gregís face. She shouldnít have overreacted like that but sheíd been completely fed up with the man after only a couple of tries on the list. Then for him to come on to her! She couldnít believe she actually thought she was having a good time last night. She should have grabbed a bite with Mulder; at least she knew where she stood with him.
That thought hadnít really lifted her spirits and she shouldnít have continued the interviews alone, but she was too pissed to allow herself know that.
If sheíd been on top of her game she would never had allowed herself to become trapped like she did. This address wasnít even on their list, but the car had a Central High sticker on it. Thatís what had caught her attention. The woman that answered the door looked normal, spoke intelligently, and Scully just missed the fleeting look of panic in her eyes when the term FBI was mentioned.
The woman let her in and appeared quite cordial if slightly nervous, offering coffee or a drink. Maybe that would calm her, she agreed to a glass of water.
Scully waited in the living room and glanced at the awards on the mantle. Cheerleading trophies, pictures, class letters. Her daughterís awards? Before Scully could investigate the woman was back and handed Scully the tall glass of ice water. She took a drink and then a deep breath to calm herself. She needed to be professional. Scully stepped closer to the fireplace and took another sip. Central High School, 1982. 1982? These were pictures of this woman - Diana Bruszewski. She was the cheerleader in these pictures.
Her eyes lost focus and she shook her head. Oh shit! She turned to look at the woman standing behind her. The woman looked as scared as she felt, but she was in control of situation for now anyway. Scully watched the glass fall from her hand and travel what seemed to be a long distance to the floor where it shattered on the hearth. She grabbed the back of the nearest chair.
"Iím sorry." The woman spoke as Scully lost her battle with gravity and sank to the floor. "Iím sorry."
Scully came to on a hard little bed, no more than a cot really. It wasnít dark, but the light came from elsewhere. She tried to rise but a wave of dizziness overcame her. Well, it looked like sheíd found the killer, or at least someone involved. The woman that had drugged her had gone to high school with the victims. And high school had obviously been important to her if the pictures and awards on the mantel were any indication. Had she been one of those girls that peaked in high school and spent the rest of her life trying to recapture past glories?
Mulder, do you know Iím in trouble? Did Greg go back to the office after their altercation? That what she should have done. In fact she should never have gone out with Greg on these interviews to begin with. He'd insisted and Mulder hadnít protested. Thatís what sheíd wanted, for Mulder to protest. How childish could she be? Sheíd wanted Mulder to be jealous if she was going to be honest about it. Enough! She needed to focus on the current situation. She wasnít being restrained; maybe she could walk now. She managed to sit up and clutching the wall rose to her feet. She wasnít going to get far like this.
Using the wall she made her way to the door. Locked, well that wasnít really a surprise, but the woman hadnít killed her. How long had she been here? She forced her eyes to focus on her watch - three hours? Well, she had no doubt Mulder was looking for her now.
She was surprised at a tap on the door. Her jailer was knocking? Scully didnít respond and the woman opened the door. "Are you okay?"
The question rocked Scully. What was going on here? "I need to contact my partner."
"I canít . . . Iím sorry but I canít let you do that."
"Whatís going on? Why did you drug me?"
"Iím sorry about that. I was so . . ." She sank into the chair near the door. "Why did you come here?"
"Weíre looking for information about the deaths of three people."
"But why did you come here?"
"I saw the sticker for Central High on the back of your car."
Diana sighed, "So I gave myself away."
"Why did you do it Diana?"
"I canít let you go." She sounded regretful.
"So far you havenít harmed me. I can testify to that on your behalf." Keep her talking; get her on your side Dana. She obviously doesnít want to hurt you.
"No, I canít." Her shoulders slumped and she looked even more forlorn.
"Why did you do it Diana?"
"Iíve worked on this for so long. I couldnít think what I could have missed, what led you to me. I waited years - years!" She shook her head, staring off into space.
Had she stalked these people? "Talk to me Diana. Why these people?"
"They ruined my life. They cursed me."
"Cursed you?" Anything to keep her talking.
"You saw the mantle. I was popular, I was a leader, I had the grades, the boyfriend. They were nothing! They didnít play sports; they didnít go to parties. We laughed at them. They had no right to . . . " Her voice trailed off.
"What did they do?" Scully was practically whispering. She wasnít sure the woman even knew she was still there.
"What right did they have to have such lives? They had no social potential in high school, I had the potential! I should have had their lives. It isnít right!"
What? What was she talking about? Scully was afraid to ask any questions now, but she seemed to be on a roll.
"They were nothing. They should have always been nothing, but look what they did! After high school they . . . they blossomed. They got married. They found people they loved. They barely even dated in high school. Okay, the people they married werenít gorgeous or rich, but they stayed married. They had children! Iíve been divorced three times. Three! My life has been crap ever since I graduated, but they - they got everything! Donít you see? They had my life and I ended up with theirs! They took my life! So I studied, I learned what I needed to know. It was easy after I . . . I didnít need a soul living the life they left me with. And I learned how to do it. I left no evidence. It should have been perfect."
"Are you . . . youíre not talking about witchcraft?" She had definitely spent too much time with Mulder. But the woman didnít even flinch.
"No, I studied wiccans and witchcraft, but it was too positive. They do white magic, earth friendly spells. Thatís not what I wanted. These people needed to be punished - donít you see? I didnít want to help them. No, witchcraft wasnít at all what I had always thought it was. I had to keep searching. I found it, what I was looking for. I gave up my soul for it but it worked. I was able to punish them. Now youíve found me and the others will have to go unpunished." She stood then and moved toward the door.
"Diana, please let me out of here. I can get you some help."
Diana didnít even turn to look at her, "Iím truly sorry about you. I donít want to hurt you but youíre just in the wrong place at the wrong time." She let herself out the door.
"Diana!" There was no response. Dana knew somehow that she was never going to see the woman again.
No cab had come to pick her up, the bus drivers had been shown her photograph and had not seen her. It was as though she had vanished off the face of the earth. Mulderís thoughts on Detective Marcum had moved from murder to slow torture. And he was getting more creative by the moment.
The chief of police finally forced a shift change though he had no jurisdiction over Mulder. Chief Sams quite reasonably pointed out that he needed rest and the local PD could continue the search. Mulder was barely civil when he Ďrespondedí. Unfortunately the chief was right about one thing, he was dead on his feet. He wasnít willing to go back to the motel, but he could catch a nap in the car.
An hour later he jerked awake with her name on his lips. When he got his breath back he glanced at his watch. Sheíd been missing fifteen hours now. He couldnít even be certain she was still . . . no. He was going to find her.
He started the car and headed back to the street where Marcum had abandoned her. He was missing something and that wasnít something he could afford. He parked at the end of the street. There were almost no lights in the houses at this time of night, only the street lights.
There were three houses where theyíd been unable to get a response. There still appeared to be no activity at any of the houses. It would be daylight soon. He could watch all three houses from here, thatís what he would do.
There was still no activity at 6 a.m. No lights had been turned on; no one had picked up the newspaper that had been delivered to two of the houses. Fine, he was going to do some trespassing. He approached the first house and made his way around to the back. He let himself in and carefully began examining the dwelling. There was no one home, and nothing to indicate any connection to Scully.
His frustration was growing exponentially. He headed toward the second house. There was a car parked in front of this one, but that didnít mean anyone was home, damnit. He was past the car when he stopped and turned back. What? What was it about the car? He looked inside, nothing. But something had made him turn back - oh shit. There on the bumper was a faded parking pass - to Central High.
This address hadnít been on the interview list. Adrenaline hit his bloodstream full force. He approached the front door and looked in the closest window. No activity. He used his tools to let himself in, not bothering to go around to the back this time.
The smell caught his attention first. He cupped his hand over his nose and mouth and moved toward the back of the house, his gun in his free hand.
The smell was worse back here. He opened the door to what had to be the larger bedroom and gagged. On the bed was a corpse in an advanced state of decay, wearing a cheerleader uniform. Damn! At least she was too tall to be Scully. He shut the door and moved back to the front of the house. He opened the front door and after recovering his breath called 911.
Once assured the police and an ambulance were on the way he made his way back inside, a handkerchief over most of his face now. He had to make sure Scully wasnít in there. As he passed it again, the mantle caught his attention - pictures and awards from Central. 1982? Had Scully seen this? Had something drawn her to this house? Where the hell was she?
He checked every room and was headed for the basement when he heard the sirens. He headed back outside and saw that the chief himself was on the scene.
"Weíve got a body in here. My guess is she's the owner. Iíd say sheís been dead for about a week, but sheís tied into the case somehow."
The chief nodded and followed Mulder back into the room with the body. Neither stayed long. Neighbors were gathering when they came back out to give the photographer and crime scene crew room to work.
One of the women approached them. "Is Ms. Bruszewski all right?"
"Is that the woman that lives here?" She nodded. "When did you last see her?"
"Last night. She got something from her shed out back. I spoke but I guess she didnít hear me."
"Would you know who to contact for an identification?"
"I donít . . . Iím not sure. Me probably, Iím a nurse. She didnít date. I think she was divorced, never mentioned any family. I guess I could . . . "
"This body has been dead for several days."
"Then it canít be her. I know I saw Diana last night."
The chief nodded, "In that case could we ask you to take a look at the body, see if youíve ever seen the woman before?"
She nodded reluctantly and he took her arm to lead her to the gurney that had been loaded with the body. He looked at her one more time; "Iíll be okay." At her nod he opened the bag and exposed the womanís face.
She gasped and stepped back. Mulder moved forward and took her arm. "Itís her! Thatís Diana. What did they do to her?"
"Thatís the woman you saw last night?" She nodded obviously shaken. "Are you going to be okay?"
"I canít . . . what would cause a body to decompose like that?"
"Weíre going to need a complete autopsy." The chief had covered the body again.
"We need to find Scully first." Mulder headed back inside. After thanking the woman once again, the chief followed him.
"Iíve had my people search the whole house. If they had found anything weíd know."
Mulder didnít bother to acknowledge him, heading for the basement door off the kitchen, the one place he hadnít checked himself.
"Agent Mulder? We were just down there. Itís empty."
"Iíll check anyway." He continued down the stairs. Sheíd been missing nearly 18 hours now. He slammed his hand against the shelves in frustration. What had happened to her? Sheíd been here, he could feel it. Sheíd seen that sticker on the car just like he had. Now the woman who lived here was dead. He leaned against the shelf and felt it shift slightly.
He stepped back, looking at it carefully, then shoved against it and it moved. It was on rollers! A door, a hidden door behind the shelves. "Scully! Scully can you hear me?" Nothing. "Get an ambulance!" This was shouted up the stairs and he heard footsteps move toward the kitchen. He stepped back and then his foot connected with the wood and he felt satisfaction as it gave and swung open. Scully! He knelt beside her, his hand trembling slightly as he felt for her pulse at her throat. Yes! He closed his eyes a second in relief. Where was the ambulance?
"Yeah Scully. Youíre gonna be okay."
"Thirsty." He turned toward the door as he heard the people headed toward them.
"Get some water down here. Now!" He didnít release her hand. "An ambulance is on the way. Just relax."
"She drugged me. Diana, is she here?"
"Sheís dead Scully. Her bodyís already been removed. You were kind of hidden down here." Someone had handed him a glass of water; he didnít bother to turn to see who.
"Dianaís dead?" She tried to sit up and he had his arm around her. "It had to be suicide." He held the glass to her lips, only allowing her small sips.
"The body was so decomposed Iím not sure an autopsyís going to be a lot of help." He didnít attempt to move away from her, he had the excuse of supporting her and she wasnít trying to pull away.
"Decomposed? She could only have been dead a few hours. She talked with me last night. She was the killer and sheíd planned to kill more. We interrupted her."
"We can talk about this later Scully. Just rest for now." He could hear the commotion of more people arriving. She nodded and leaned against him. His arm tightened around her and those mutilation fantasies involving Marcum reentered his mind.
Scully refused to be admitted to the hospital. The drug, whatever it was, seemed to be gone from her system. Diana had not harmed her in any other way. Mulder waited right outside of her cubicle in ER while she dressed. He stiffened as he saw Greg appear and head in his direction.
"I need to see her." He was decidedly uneasy around this Mulder guy, but he needed to talk to her.
Mulder gave the barest of nods and accompanied him into her area. That surprised the local man but he couldnít think of any excuse to ask him to leave. Besides, Mulder wouldnít leave her anyway. He had his hand on Dana, standing beside and slightly over her. Greg had the impression that heíd plunge a dagger into his heart if he got too close.
He stuttered through an apology. He could have done better if Mulder hadnít been there, but he did the best he could. She was certainly more gracious than Mulder was, though there was a coldness in her manner that showed him how badly he had screwed up in her opinion. He made his retreat as quickly as possible.
"Mulder? You can lean back a little now. Heís gone."
"What do you mean?"
"You know exactly what I mean. I do not need you to hover over me. Iím fine."
"I'm being too territorial?"
"Well . . . he was trying to apologize."
"For nearly getting you killed?"
"Okay, but he didn't try to kill me. I thought you were going to go for his throat." The words were warning, but her eyes were twinkling.
"I'd thought about it, while you were missing. It might have been good for the city ultimately." He was trying to lighten up but he had ignored her suggestion to move away from her.
She put her hand on his arm and stepped down from the gurney, his other arm went around her automatically to steady her. "Mulder? I'm okay, really."
He closed his eyes and sighed, then withdrew his arm and stepped back, like she wanted. Like she always wanted.
"Mulder, I didn't say you had to do that. A little territoriality might be okay." At his startled look she grinned and took his arm again to walk outside. Together.