Due largely in part to the lateness of the hour, the streets were virtually deserted, allowing Mulder to reach his destination in record time. He had broken every traffic law between his apartment and here, making the drive in eight minutes flat.
He spotted the abandoned bakery easily enough, the broken and partially boarded up windows a testament to the fact that it had been empty for quite awhile. He noted that many of the boards appeared to be missing, especially the ones that had at one time covered the front entrance. There were plenty of gaps large enough for a human to easily gain entrance to the building.
He continued down the block, not wanting to draw attention to himself in case the rapist was watching the street. He had no idea exactly where this guy was supposed to be, or even where his partner was for that matter, so he turned into the parking lot of an all-night convenience store on the opposite side of the street two blocks away and left the car.
He glanced at his watch as he began walking back towards the bakery. 3:28 am. It had been roughly eleven minutes since heâd hung up with Scully, and if the timetable sheâd given him was correct, something should be happening within the next four minutes.
He began to replay the conversation in his mind as he walked, wondering how she could possibly know the exact time the rapist was planning to strike. He figured she mustâve somehow overheard the manâs plans, but that just brought him back to the question of what she was doing out here in the first place. This whole scene was just starting to seem a little too weird, even for him.
He heard a car start up behind him, and turned to see a young woman dressed in an orange uniform leave the convenience store parking lot and turn her 1970-something Volkswagon onto Taylor Avenue. **Guess her shift is over**, Mulder thought to himself as he watched her drive past.
He continued to watch as she slowed to a stop at a traffic light directly in front of the bakery, and suddenly, he knew what was coming.
He was still nearly a full block away when a stocky figure in dark clothing darted from the shadows of the building and circled around the back of the car, gun in hand. Mulder hugged the building fronts, approaching as quickly and quietly as possible as the man reached the driverâs side, and ordered the frightened girl out of the car.
Thinking she was the victim of a carjacking, the woman did as she was told, trying her best to pacify the man in a trembling voice. âOk mister, go ahead, take the car. I wonât tell anyone, I swear. Just donât hurt me!â
âShut up!â he growled, shoving her brutally up against the car, pinning her there with one arm. With the other, he reached into the car and switched off the engine, then engaged the hazard lights. Now anyone happening by would simply think the car had broken down and been abandoned.
He slammed the door shut, and the womanâs eyes widened with fear. âWhatâ¦?â Her question was cut off abruptly by a hand over her mouth and a gun pressed to her temple. âWeâre gonna take a little walk now, honey, and if you try to fight, or scream, Iâm gonna splatter your brains all over the sidewalk,â he told her as he began moving her towards the bakery entrance.
Mulder realized that his best chance of saving this girl was to stop them before they made it to the building. There were just too many unknowns once they got inside. He had absolutely no knowledge of the layout of the building, whereas the perpetrator seemed to know exactly where he was going. Plus, there was still the mystery of his partnerâs whereabouts. He didnât want to risk this guy running into Scully in the dark. Sheâd probably kick his ass if she knew he had such an overprotective thought about her, and truth be told, she was actually a better shot than he, but sometimes he just couldnât help himself. And she hadnât sounded at all like herself on the phone, which, when coupled with her absence, was really starting to worry him.
By the time Mulder was directly across the street from the abandoned bakery, the man and his intended victim were nearly halfway between the girlâs car and the entrance of the building.
Deciding it was now or never, Mulder drew his own weapon and ran out into the street, keeping the car between himself and the pair until the last possible second. They were ten feet from the door when Mulder rounded the front end of the car and made his presence known.
âFederal agent! Drop your weapon!â
The man turned automatically towards this new voice, the woman momentarily forgotten, and found himself looking down the barrel of Mulderâs gun.
âI said drop it!â ordered Mulder.
The man put his hands up, fingers spread wide, the gun hanging loosely in his right hand. âOk, ok, I heard ya. Donât shoot, man.â
âI want you to very slowly put the gun down on the ground,â said Mulder. As the perpetrator bent to comply, Mulderâs attention shifted briefly to the woman, who seemed frozen in place. âMiss, are you ok?â he asked. She gave a quick nod, her eyes flicking nervously between Mulder and her would-be abductor, who had yet to stand after placing his gun carefully on the pavement.
Mulder kicked the weapon several feet away, safely out of the suspectâs reach. âGet up!â he ordered harshly. In a much gentler tone, he spoke to the victim. âI need you to do something for me. Go back to the convenience store and call 911. Tell them that Iâm a federal agent, Iâve apprehended an armed suspect and need police backup. Can you do that?â
âY-yes.â Her first attempt came out a mere whisper, so she tried again, her voice stronger the second time. âYes, I can.â He smiled encouragingly at her.
âGo on then. Take your car. This neighborhood can be dangerous at this time of night.â She gave him a ghost of a smile in return and walked quickly to the Volkswagon. As the engine turned over and the car headed back in the direction from which it came, Mulder turned his full attention to the man still crouched in front of him.
âI told you to get up!â
Seemingly absorbed in the task of tying and retying his right shoe, the man ignored the order, much to Mulderâs annoyance. In exasperation, Mulder stepped directly in front of the man, gun leveled at his head, and cocked the hammer back with a deliberate click.
The suspect glanced up, giving Mulder a look of mild irritation, much as he might look at someone in a theater that talked during the movie. Then he shook his head briefly as if amazed by the unmitigated gall of this FBI agent before him, and bent once again to fiddle with his shoelace. Mulder was completely bewildered by the manâs cavalier attitude. **Whatâs wrong with this picture? Iâm standing here with a gun not two inches from this guyâs head, and
heâs trying to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records for Worldâs Most Perfectly Tied Shoelace. **
Mulder was suddenly certain that he was missing something. There was some vital piece of information nagging at his memory, but the harder he tried to retrieve it, the more it continued to elude him. It wasnât until the man stood quickly and lunged at him, something clutched in his right hand that flashed silver in the streetlight, that Scullyâs warning came back to him.
**Donât forget the knife, Mulder. Remember the knife. **
At the last possible second, Mulder stepped quickly backwards, managing to avoid the brunt of the blow. He felt a sharp, hot pain as the knife cut into him just above the waistband of his jeans, but upon sparing a glance down at himself, he realized the wound was superficial. He said a silent thank you to his partner, certain that without her warning, he wouldâve just been gutted like a deer.
He backed up a little more before the man could lunge again. âDrop the knife, asshole!â Even with Mulder a safe distance away, a gun aimed pointedly at his heart, the man hesitated for a moment, quite obviously weighing the possible consequences of another attack. Finally he decided the odds werenât in his favor now that heâd lost the element of surprise, and he relented, dropping the knife to the pavement.
âNow, I want you to turn around and lie face down on the ground with your hands behind your head.â The suspect sighed in resignation as he complied with the order. Mulder had no way of securing the prisoner until the police arrived, since he had left his handcuffs at home in his rush to get here in the short amount of time that Scully had allotted him. Fortunately, the distant sound of approaching sirens told him that he wouldnât have long to wait.
âIâm sorry sir, but thereâs no sign of her anywhere.â
The words were barely out of his mouth before Officer Steve Phethean wished he could take them back. It was quite apparent from the steely glare now fixated on the young officer that this news was not what âSpecial Agent Fox Mulder, FBIâ had wanted to hear.
He instinctively took a half step backwards before he dared to continue. âThe bakery has been thoroughly searched, as have all the side streets and alleyways within a two block radius. Every building within that same radius has been checked as well, and found to be locked securely with no signs of recent entry, forced or otherwise. Weâve also been unable to find any car in the area matching the description you gave us of your partnerâs. Are you absolutely certain that she didnât leave of her own accord?â
âAgent Scully would not leave a crime scene.â This was spoken through a jaw clenched so tightly the officer feared for the enamel on Agent Mulderâs teeth.
âWhat did he say when you questioned him?â Mulder jerked his chin in the direction of the perpetrator, who was currently handcuffed and sitting in the backseat of Phetheanâs patrol car. He had wanted to question the man himself, but at Phetheanâs insistence had been led off to have his knife wound looked at by an EMT and then to give his own accounting of what had transpired.
Officer Phethean consulted his notes, rolling his eyes as he spoke. âWell, letâs see here. He claims he was walking home from church â seems he had the irrepressible urge to visit the confessional at 3 oâclock in the morning â when he spotted an old family friend sitting in her Volkswagon at a red light. He greeted her – though he couldnât even give us her first name when questioned – and the two of them were just on their way to catch up on old times over coffee when you happened along.â
Mulder snorted. âYeah, greeted her with a loaded .22. Couldnât he have just sent a Hallmark? Anyway, what did he say about Scully?â
âI told him that you had been called here by your partner who hasnât been seen or heard from since the time of that phone call. His reply to that was, âIf thereâs another fed down here somewhere, I ainât seen him.â It didnât seem to occur to him that your partner could be a woman.â Steve held up his hand when Mulder began to interrupt. âI know what youâre going to say, and yes, he couldâve said what he did to throw us off. But for some reason, I donât think he was lying.â
âOh, thatâs just great,â Mulder said. âYouâre going to accept the word of a rapist and a murderer simply because you donât think he was lying?â He ran a hand through his hair in a gesture of impatience.
âThatâs another thing. When we ran the guyâs name through our computer, he came up clean. Well, relatively speaking, anyway. There were a couple of assault and battery charges, two counts of possession of illegal firearms, a smattering of drug-related charges, and a failed attempt at robbing a liquor store, but nothing having to do with murder, rape, or any other kind of sexual offense whatsoever.â
Phethean took a deep breath before continuing. âLook, Agent Mulder, thereâs no doubt in my mind that if you hadnât come along tonight, that girl would have been raped at the very least. What Iâm having such a hard time with is how your partner could have possibly known that this guy would choose tonight of all nights to begin his new career as a rapist. You said you were asleep when she called, right? Is it possible that you were dreaming?â
âIf that phone call was a dream, then how do you explain the fact that when I got here, I stopped a man from dragging a young woman off into an empty building, exactly as I was told it would happen? How could I have known to come here, specifically?â If Mulder wasnât so worried about Scully, he might have laughed. ** Ok, now Iâm supposed to be psychic?
As much as Iâd love that idea, Iâm just not buying it. **
The officer shrugged. âWell, this isnât exactly the greatest of neighborhoods. It could be a coincidence. I mean, itâs kind of like dreaming that you have to go to Baskin Robbins, and while youâre there youâre going to have some ice cream. If you wake up, drive to Baskin Robbins, and eat ice cream, does that make you psychic, or victim of the inevitable? What else would you expect to eat there? You donât live far from here yourself, so you must know what this area is like. What else would you expect to have happen here at this time of night?â
Mulder shook his head. âNo, it wasnât a dream. She called me. Iâm certain of it. Itâs completely plausible that Scully could have somehow learned of his plans. Whoâs to say the guy hasnât been planning this for weeks, watching and waiting for the right time to make his move?â
âWell, ordinarily Iâd agree with you,â Steve said. âBut, according to Miss McIntyre, her home is in the opposite direction from the convenience store. She only came this way to drop something off at the post office mailbox for her mother.â He indicated the building across the street from them. âIf he had been plotting this abduction, wouldnât it stand to reason that heâd have been waiting in a location that was actually on her way home? What that tells me is that this was not a premeditated event.â
He sighed heavily. The agent wasnât going to like what he had to say next. âRegardless of whether or not your partner called you Agent Mulder, sheâs not here now. Iâm at a loss as to what else I can do for you without having some solid evidence of foul play. Thereâs going to be hell to pay for me tomorrow if I keep my men out here all night looking for someone that may or may not even be missing. Iâm sorry I canât be of more help.â
Phethean was certain an argument was forthcoming, but was surprised when Mulder spoke. âWell, thank you for looking, and you have my number if you need any more information about what happened here tonight.â He began to walk towards his car as he spoke, delivering most of his parting statement to the officer over his shoulder. He needed to be off by himself so he could think.
Mulder spent the two-block walk to his car reviewing the events of the past hour. By the time heâd reached the convenience store lot where heâd parked, he had no new answers, but plenty of new questions. How had Scully known the man would attack tonight? How had she known exactly what time that attack would take place? Why did she leave the scene without waiting for backup to arrive? These were all questions that would have to be answered by his partner, he knew. And that wasnât likely to happen until he found the answer to his most pressing question: where was she now?
Mulder reached the car and got in, his eyes falling on his cell phone lying forgotten on the passenger seat. ** Why the hell didnât I think of that before? ** He snatched up the phone and hit the speed dial number for Scullyâs cell phone.
After several rings, a nasal voice told him, âWeâre sorry, the Cellular One customer youâre trying to reachâ¦â Mulder punched the âendâ button in frustration. Then he tried her home number. Expecting to hear her machine pick up but hoping to hear an annoyed âhello?â at being called at such an hour, Mulder was baffled by what he did hear. A busy signal.
He tried again, just to make sure, and got the same result. He called the operator and requested an emergency interrupt, just so he could hear for himself that she was fine. ** Jeez, Iâd even like to hear that from her at this point. ** Her patented, âIâm fine, Mulderâ, delivered with a sigh that said without words that even if she wasnât fine, she didnât want to be mothered, would be music to his ears right about now.
The operator came back on the line, putting an end to his musings. âIâm sorry sir, but thereâs no one on the line. Either the phone is off the hook, or itâs out of order. Is there anything else I can help you with?â
âNo, thank you.â Mulder hung up abruptly and started the engine. Well, at least now he knew where to start looking. He put the car in gear and headed for Scullyâs apartment.
Less than one hour earlier
Dana Scully stood in the middle of an unfamiliar street, barefoot and dressed in her favorite navy blue satin pajamas, watching the drama as it unfolded before her.
A Volkswagen came down the street, stopping for a traffic light in front of a vacant building, itâs driver not seeming to notice the petite redhead standing in the middle of the intersection not fifteen feet in front of her car. When a man with a gun made his appearance, Scully was certain he looked in her direction as he surveyed the area for possible witnesses, yet he continued to carry out his heinous intentions, not seeing her as a threat to his plans. Or quite simply, not seeing her.
Turning her gaze away from the girl and her abductor, Scully saw her partner making his way hurriedly toward the pair. She quietly watched the scene play itself out, making no attempts at intervention. She sensed that any action she tried to take would only result in frustration for her. Somehow she knew that her role here was as an observer only, and that any movement she made would go unnoticed, any sound she uttered, unheard. Her part in this had ended as soon as sheâd returned the phone to its cradle. Now all she could do was watch, and pray.
Scully watched as her partner confronted the man, disarming him easily. With the suspectâs gun gone, and the girl on the way to phone for help, Scully should have been relieved, although in reality she was anything but. The words tumbled out of her mouth in a frantic whisper before she even realized she was speaking. âThe knife, oh God, he forgot the knife!â
As soon as she heard herself saying the words, she remembered what her partner had forgotten. The suspect had a knife in a sheath strapped to his right ankle, and he was planning to use it on Mulder.
Scully watched in fascinated horror as the killer made a show of tying his shoe, waiting for just the right moment to attack. As she saw his right hand slip beneath the hem of his pants to grip the knife handle, she knew she couldnât just stand by and watch her best friend gutted before her eyes.
If Scully had more time, she might have wondered at what she did next. She would have questioned with a scientistâs logic the validity of her actions. And had she the time to question, she most certainly would have dismissed the gesture outright, certain in her science that her attempt at intervention would be ineffective. But as time was a factor, she acted
purely on instinct, channeling all of her energy into a single thought, hoping against hope that subconsciously he would receive her message.
** Donât forget the knife, Mulder. Remember the knife. **
Scully held her breath as the knife cleared its holster and the man rose from his crouch, a flash of silver glinting in his right fist. Mulder did not yet seem aware of the impending danger. He hadnât gotten her message.
She choked back a sob as she tried to prepare herself for the sight of her partner receiving what would most likely be a fatal knife wound to the abdomen, when he jumped back at the last minute, avoiding the brunt of the blow.
Scully exhaled shakily and allowed her eyes to close for a moment in relief, only to open them to darkness. She could no longer feel the pavement beneath her bare feet, couldnât see her partner and his prisoner, couldnât hear the sirens that had been discernible in the distance. The street where sheâd been standing a moment before was simply gone, and in its place wasâ¦nothing. There was no light, no noise other than the sound of her own sharp intake of breath at the sudden loss of stimuli, the only sensation that of floating in the nothingness that surrounded her. She felt a twinge of surprise that she wasnât at all frightened by the darkness, and then even that faded as she let her eyes slip closed and her mind drift away.
End Chapter One